Reports of the damage to boxwood plants in the South of France are coming in with unsettling regularity. The devastation caused appears to be even higher than last year, due to the number of caterpillars that over wintered.
We reported last year on how the South of France was under attack from the Box Tree Moth & Caterpillar.
Here is an update from Andy Attenburrow, whose garden was affected badly last year, on what he is doing differently this year and how it is working out well so far.
The caterpillar/moth infestation has become a major problem throughout south west France. Certainly, locally here in the Ariège, the infestation is rampant. Even the box that grows naturally on the mountains has been affected. Sadly, many people have been abandoning there box hedges. However, I have had good results with XenTari.
Last autumn my box hedges started to make a good recovery after the major infestation. I would say about half the foliage returned. However, when the growing season got going in April this year the caterpillars returned in force! I suddenly realised they were all over the the box. I had not seen this number of caterpillars last year. They were devouring the leaves rapidly. I had to respond urgently, otherwise all my previous success would be undone. So on 22nd April I applied the Xen Tari thoroughly after high pressure hosing the hedges. The instructions stated that the caterpillars would cease eating the leaves after 2 hours. I guess this was the case but it took 5 more days until the caterpillars had turned black.
Since then, I am happy to report that the hedges have made a very good recovery. The spring growth has brought leaves back to all the affected plants- even those that had been stripped of their leaves. Box is clearly a very resilient plant! I have plenty of Health Mix available but I have not applied it because the plants seem to be doing very well on their own.
I have been reluctant to prune my hedges because many branches that seemed dead have eventually produced new leaves. Should I wait until the autumn before doing any pruning?
We are having an unusually wet spring. And I think this has helped the box hedges with their re-growth. But should I apply a dose of Health Mix anyway?
I try to be vigilant and keep inspecting my hedges for any signs of the dreaded caterpillars. So far so good. But with such a widespread infestation in France, it is only a matter of time before they return to attack my hedges. Nonetheless, I am prepared to keep up the fight to preserve these wonderful plants in my garden!
With regard to Andy’s questions about pruning, there should be no harm in doing so, but it would be a good idea not to prune quite as hard as normal given the plant will still be recovering their strength after the caterpillar infestation.
As far as whether or not to use the Topbuxus Health Mix, even though the plants appear to be doing well, it would be a good idea to use it as it will give the plants an extra boost whilst they are recovering. Don’t forget as the Health Mix is a foliar feed and is sprayed onto leaves, it shouldn’t be done in bright sunlight as this will scorch the leaves.
In addtion to feeding, watering the plants at their bases will also help them recover as they dehydrate badly when they have eaten leaves after caterpillar attacks.