Box tree moth and spotted lanternfly have been found in Michigan—now what?

Increasing regulation around economically important species such as boxwood spells trouble for nursery growers in west Michigan.

An adult spotted lanternfly and a box tree moth caterpillar.
Spotted lanternfly and box tree moth have been detected in Michigan. Photos by Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, (left, spotted lanternfly) and Mujezinovic Osman, Faculty of Forestry, (right, box tree moth).

Box tree moth (Cydalima perspectalis) and spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) are invasive landscape pests that can lead to significant defoliation and have the potential to change the retail landscape of other nursery stock in Michigan. To address these challenges, Andria McCubbin and Amber Neils of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) will discuss the quarantines and what the future might hold for both invasive species at a meeting, “An Emerging Threat: Box Tree Moth and Spotted Lanternfly in Michigan.” This meeting will take place Feb. 15 at 1 p.m. at the Ottawa County Michigan State University Extension Office in West Olive, Michigan. At the meeting, our MDARD representatives will cover the potential impact for nursery and tree growers in Michigan. The topic will also be of interest to landscapers in west Michigan.

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These emerging threats may lead landscapers to consider using non-host species if these pests continue to spread in Michigan. Boxwood (the primary host of box tree moth) is prized in the landscape for their deer resistance, season-long interest, ability to be pruned into hedges and are often used as foundation plantings around homes. Box tree moth has the potential to infest and even kill boxwood plants. Michigan State University Extension has excellent educational resources on both box tree moth and spotted lanternfly.

These invasive species are relatively new in Michigan. MDARD developed quarantines for box tree moth to prevent its spread to new areas of the state. In early 2023, this quarantine effected two full counties and areas of two other counties in southeast Michigan. By the end of 2023, the quarantine was expanded to 12 counties in central and southeast Michigan.

While spotted lanternfly, an invasive pest that can feed on at least 70 species of trees, has only been detected in a localized spot in Oakland County in 2022, there are infestations in neighboring counties of Ohio and Indiana. It has the potential to negatively affect specialty crops, especially the fruit industry, and be a nuisance in outdoor areas.

While there are only select counties subject to the quarantines as of early 2024, there is the potential for those quarantines to grow and create more restrictions for nursery growers. These restrictions have the potential to have large economic impacts for nursery growers shipping plants broadly.

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