While I have been at home attempting to shelter myself from catching the coronavirus, I have been too self-occupied with my own health worries to the extent that I didn’t notice that the box hedge in my front garden was looking downright poorly.
Now, I am no horticulturalist but, even to my untrained eye, I could see that the leaves, which should have been glossy and green were rather brown and shabby, and the neat square edge of the hedge was looking ragged and uneven.
About the same time that I noticed my box hedge’s distress, I also spotted some distinctive green and black caterpillars, which I hadn’t seen before. I’ve always quite liked caterpillars, and the sight of them cheered me after the spectacle of my box’s blight. It was only several weeks later, when my caterpillars had turned into equally striking brown-and-white moths, that I roused myself to investigate just what species they were. It did not take an exhaustive search to discover the truth.
The box-tree moth is a native of southeast Asia, and was first spotted in the UK as recently as 2007. Since then it has become widespread in London and the Home Counties. And, it is known as the box-tree moth for a reason. Sadly, not because it is beneficial to box, but because it aggressively chomps its way through the stuff. The explanation for my box hedge’s sorry state was instantly explained.
Opinion seems to be divided on the internet about what to do with box-tree moths. ‘Kill or keep’ is the dilemma boiled down into one simple phrase. The ‘kill’ side of the argument seems to mainly come from owners of box hedges; the ‘keep’ from aesthetes and pacifists. I fall into both camps and find myself sitting on the garden fence.
Meanwhile, my poor box hedge suffers. While the world has fixated about Covid-19, it has been visited by its own private pandemic.
It is a reminder to me not to lose sight of the problems of neighbours in these difficult times and to keep a better watch out for them.
© Simon Turner-Tree
Simon Turner-Tree wonders how best to hedge his bets.