Gardening tips: How to get rid of UK’s biggest pest from your garden

Monty Don opens up about his love for gardening

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The box tree caterpillar may be small, but it can cause damage to your plants. How can you get rid of this popular pest from your garden?

Since box tree caterpillars were first found in British gardens in 2011, they have become widely distributed across the UK.

However, they are most common in London and the surrounding areas in south-east England.

Newly hatched caterpillars are yellow-green with black heads, while older caterpillars have a yellow-green body with thick black and thin white stripes along the length of the body.

The caterpillars eat box leaves, produce webbing over their feeding area, and are also capable of stripping bark.

After publishing the 2019 pest survey results, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) stated that its researchers are working hard towards finding more information on how gardeners can remove pests from their gardens.

They are mostly focusing on biological controls such as the use of nematodes.

Nematodes, or eelworms, can be watered into the soil and infect box tree caterpillars with a fatal disease, without causing any harm to plants or other growth.

These microscopic creatures are available from refrigerated cabinets in some garden centres, or by mail from suppliers of biological controls, according to the RHS.

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But what else can you do to reduce the number of box tree caterpillars in your garden?

The RHS recommended removing caterpillars by hand, if possible,

Or you can buy a pheromone trap from several suppliers, including Agralan, Dragonfli, and Solabiol.

The pheromone dispenser lures insects into the trap until they get stuck onto an adhesive plate, making it easier to detect, count, and identify them.

Pheromone traps are also very sensitive, and so they can attract insects present at very low densities and determine the first appearance of a pest in an area.

Another tactic that could help get rid of box tree caterpillars is to attract more birds to your garden.

There have been reports of some birds, such as blue tits, feeding on the caterpillars in some locations in Britain.

Blue tits are fans of small holes and gaps in tree trunks and boughs, therefore you can attempt to attract them by buying bird boxes with small entrance holes and hanging them on high tree branches.

As for bird feed, Blue tits are not fussy and enjoy eating peanuts, insects, mealworms, suet cakes, and fatballs.

Pesticides can also be used to control box tree caterpillars.

An insecticide should be forcefully sprayed in order to penetrate the interior of box plants through the webbed together leaves, according to the RHS.

You should always follow label instructions when using pesticides and make sure not to spray plants in flower due to the danger to pollinating insects.

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