Invasive insects worry state officials

Spotted lanternfly and box tree moth threaten Massachusetts.


Two invasive insects have raised concern with state officials recently, the spotted lanternfly and the box tree moth. 

The spotted lanternfly, described in a Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) release as “an excellent hitchhiker,” can cross state lines in produce, sheds, shrubs, and other items. 

“Anyone who has recently received goods or materials from states where [the spotted lanternfly] is known to have been introduced (Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia) should also be on the lookout,” a release states. 

MDAR describes the spotted lanternfly as an invasive, sap-feeding insect from Asia with the potential to hurt Massachusetts agriculture, including “apples, peaches, grapes/wine, hops/beer, maple syrup, and ornamental plants.”

A spotted lanternfly nymph was recently discovered in Fitchburg, the release states. 

Anyone who believes they have found a spotted lanternfly is encouraged to take a photo or specimen and use the MDAR reporting form,

 MDAR doesn’t believe the spotted lanternfly has established a foothold in Massachusetts yet. For anyone who has recently received Canadian boxwoods, the federal government has alerted MDAR “that a number of nurseries within the commonwealth received Canadian boxwood plants that were potentially infested with box tree moths.”

Box tree moths are an invasive insect from Asia that can defoliate and kill boxwoods. Canada and Europe harbor these moths now, according to a release. 

“They can produce several generations between June and October, which makes urgent action essential to prevent this pest from establishing itself in Massachusetts,” a release states. 

“MDAR is working with its federal partners at the USDA to prevent the box tree moth from spreading and establishing itself in Massachusetts,” MDAR Commissioner John Lebeaux said through a release. “We ask Massachusetts residents who purchased boxwood shrubs this spring to take a close look at the plants to aid in our efforts to prevent this invasive species from expanding into the state and causing severe damage to Massachusetts’ popular boxwood shrubs.”

If you purchased a boxwood this past spring, MDAR asks that you inspect it for box tree moth signs. If anything is found, MDAR asks the findings be reported via the MDAR reporting form.

 “When inspecting your boxwood shrubs, look for all of the life stages of this pest: eggs, caterpillars, pupae, and adults,” a release states. “Eggs are typically laid in gelatinous masses on the underside of boxwood leaves, but may also be laid singly. Caterpillars can grow up to 1.5 inches long, and are yellowish green with a black head, and long black stripes and spots that reach from the head to the end of the body. The caterpillars create pockets of webbing within the boxwood shrubs to wall themselves off from predators. When they are ready to morph into adult moths, they form small green pupae. Adults typically have white wings with a dark brown border, but can sometimes be all brown with just a small white streak on each wing.”