Background information
Feature films A Bug’s Life
Toy Story 2 (cameo)
A Bug’s Life 2: The Revenge of the Grasshoppers
Television programs
Video games
Park attractions World of Color
Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train
Block Party Bash
Pixar Play Parade
Portrayed by
Portrayed by
Voice Joe Ranft
Bill Fagerbakke (currently)
Jerome Ranft (current)
Performance model
Honors and awards
Character information
Full name
Other names
Personality Clumsy, hungry, gluttonous, sweet
Appearance Obese lime caterpillar, green stripe on his back, red antennae
Occupation Clown
Affiliations Good
Goal To become a “beautiful butterfly,” to help Flik fight off the grasshoppers
Home P.T. Flea’s Circus
Allies His boss P.T. Flea, Flik, Atta, Dot, The Queen, Dim, Rosie, Francis, Slim, Gypsy, Manny, Tuck and Roll, Molt, Valian
Minions Dim, Rosie, Francis, Slim, Gypsy, Manny, Tuck and Roll, Molt (new member), Valian, Dot
Enemies Hopper, Molt (formerly), Thumper, the grasshoppers, the Bird
Likes Food, performing
Dislikes Francis’ attitude, getting fired, performing on an empty stomach
Powers and abilities Weak flight (as a butterfly)
Fate Becomes a butterfly and leaves Ant Island with his fellow circus bugs.
Quote “I hate performing on an empty stomach!”
“Someday I will be a beautiful butterfly and then everything will be better.”
“Francis, leave them alone. They are poo poo heads!”

Heimlich is a caterpillar from Disney/Pixar’s 1998 film A Bug’s Life. He was voiced by the late great and talented, Joe Ranft, and later voiced by Jerome Ranft in the sequel film, who also voiced Lenny in Toy Story, Wheezy in Toy Story 2, Claws Ward in Monsters, Inc., Jacques in Finding Nemo and Elmo St. Peters in The Brave Little Toaster.


Heimlich is shown to have a gluttonous appetite and is seen eating almost all the time, especially while helping the ants construct a model bird to scare Hopper and his gang. Although brave, he still shows fear when a real bird nearly eats him. Also, when Hopper says at the approaching circus wagon, he frightens Heimlich who says he thinks he’s going to wet himself.


A Bug’s Life

Heimlich is a fat green caterpillar with a German accent who works as a clown in P.T. Flea’s circus troupe. He is very gluttonous and always seems to be eating. Even during a performance, he offered to help finish one of the audience members’ candy corn. The fly refused, but then it turned out that he got the candy corn anyway. He then later calls the flies “Poo Poo Heads” when Francis is arguing with them.

At the beginning of the film, he says that he dreams of being a beautiful butterfly. He also at one point turns gray when he sees the mural of him being killed in the battle against the grasshoppers. At the end of the film, he pops from his chrysalis, squeezes out (having only turned blue), and sprouts a pair of tiny wings, finally a butterfly, but still remains flightless (due to his obesity), and it takes the efforts of Francis, Manny, Flik, and a few other ants to get him up in the air. Whilst a caterpillar, Heimlich was carried by the rhinoceros beetle, Dim, for transport.

A Bug’s Life 2: The Revenge of the Grasshoppers

Heimlich appears as a major character again.


  • Heimlich’s obesity may be a reference to Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
  • Heimlich also appears in Toy Story 2.
    • He appears close-up in an outtake of the film, alongside Flik, where they express their excitement about the making of a sequel to their film, but tells Flik that the film is a sequel that is not for A Bug’s Life.
    • Heimlich is also present during the film, he is seen crawling on the branches just before Buzz Lightyear chops them down.
    • While Buzz is looking for Woody at Al’s Toy Barn, he passes toys of Heimlich and other characters from A Bug’s Life.
  • Heimlich is the second classic Pixar character voiced by the late Joe Ranft, after Lenny.
  • Heimlich isn’t a meetable character in theme parks, but he is a robotic character in the Pixar Play Parade in Disney California Adventure located in Los Angeles and Anaheim, California. His theme park robots were voiced by John Ratzenberger.
  • Heimlich appears in World of Color.
  • Heimlich was possibly named after Dr. Henry Heimlich, inventor of the Heimlich maneuver.


The Disney Wiki and Disney Fan Fiction Wiki has a collection of images and media related to Heimlich.

Pixar’s Joe Ranft Falls to a Tragic Death

Paramount Paramount Network Disney Channel Universal Shondaland Watching Series award winner 007 transformers Lifetime cooking kids E3 Animation VICE Crackle spider-man richard e. Grant Horror Spectrum Originals dragons tv talk adaptation Shudder TV Grammys revenge San Diego Comic-Con Star Trek Comedy Polls and Games singing competition latino Election Marvel Nominations Tumblr CBS All Access A&E IFC Films Avengers Superheroe MSNBC Lucasfilm Endgame Trailer toy story jamie lee curtis YouTube Premium Marathons Cartoon Network NYCC renewed TV shows war Character Guide YouTube Red festivals disaster Musicals Writers Guild of America Amazon Prime Video screen actors guild GoT Video Games south america RT21 El Rey PaleyFest Song of Ice and Fire reboot Countdown sports canceled TV shows Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Emmys historical drama Esquire Oscars Bravo cars 2018 crime thriller supernatural crime drama crossover harry potter Showtime Spring TV Apple TV Plus robots Holiday BET slashers MTV Britbox zombies Tarantino teaser streaming TCM Mindy Kaling OWN USA Network movies zero dark thirty Fantasy Comedy Central facebook mockumentary game show independent hispanic Pride Month Stephen King 2016 binge Vudu ABC Family Cannes documentary politics natural history Winners CMT Opinion book Mudbound Action The CW DC Universe Rocketman period drama Comics on TV American Society of Cinematographers Amazon Prime The Purge SXSW name the review Disney Plus directors based on movie TCA cults vampires green book CNN SundanceTV Music Tubi Certified Fresh true crime Dark Horse Comics Summer DC Comics HBO Max cops biography boxoffice romance GIFs 2015 VH1 mutant Valentine’s Day The Arrangement Logo Star Wars medical drama Sneak Peek Box Office Netflix cartoon Infographic Warner Bros. social media ESPN Trophy Talk Epix thriller Nat Geo Creative Arts Emmys BBC sitcom spain New York Comic Con Syfy Thanksgiving Apple Podcast Pet Sematary Women’s History Month Rocky Tomatazos comic werewolf ITV Adult Swim NBC HBO Country space political drama E! series canceled Disney Ovation Crunchyroll FXX discovery talk show ghosts Discovery Channel Masterpiece Mary poppins See It Skip It YouTube Premiere Dates hist cats Schedule doctor who Pirates Red Carpet TV Land Reality Nickelodeon FX blaxploitation Sundance Now batman Black Mirror travel zombie X-Men psycho Lionsgate 2017 Martial Arts 45 psychological thriller Ghostbusters elevated horror Elton John A24 Food Network Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Pixar miniseries Anna Paquin TIFF Fall TV Awards Tour Photos Academy Awards Baby Yoda Awards Family USA docudrama TCA 2017 cancelled TV shows FOX Sundance comiccon cancelled television quibi Turner Classic Movies Christmas stand-up comedy science fiction History golden globes composers casting Rom-Com dc police drama Sundance TV ABC Amazon witnail Cosplay Mary Poppins Returns ratings 71st Emmy Awards LGBTQ television Super Bowl Mystery game of thrones diversity Marvel Television Western animated IFC crime Fox News Drama Mary Tyler Moore WarnerMedia CBS children’s TV Binge Guide Acorn TV GLAAD APB Holidays First Reviews OneApp Disney streaming service breaking bad The Walking Dead free movies TLC Winter TV romantic comedy Captain marvel TNT Kids & Family adventure Brie Larson AMC DGA Turner 20th Century Fox Set visit MCU versus indie TruTV 2020 Quiz christmas movies Teen National Geographic screenings unscripted theme song Sci-Fi Disney+ Disney Plus Classic Film dramedy Trivia Film CW Seed YA 24 frames RT History Walt Disney Pictures First Look halloween serial killer President sag awards PBS Spike sequel LGBT Superheroes Peacock what to watch Lifetime Christmas movies video Year in Review cancelled Sony Pictures Television Academy Heroines DirecTV Reality Competition Best and Worst Freeform Chernobyl aliens Interview strong female leads finale anthology cinemax 21st Century Fox Starz Netflix Christmas movies blockbuster cancelled TV series spy thriller Rock TV renewals The Witch TBS joker comics Hallmark Christmas movies 2019 BBC America anime justice league dceu DC streaming service spinoff Apple TV+ Extras Toys foreign rotten movies we love technology Arrowverse Hulu TCA Winter 2020 Marvel Studios Biopics Hallmark SDCC Musical Comic Book spanish language nature Film Festival WGN Ellie Kemper Pop Emmy Nominations Columbia Pictures Calendar

An Asian species, first recorded in the British Isles from Kent in 2007, where it was attracted to light. Since then sightings have increased greatly and is now encountered frequently across the south and even central London.

The Box Moth Cydalima perspectalis is a striking moth that was accidentally introduced to the UK originating from south-east Asia. The larvae feed on various species of box Buxus spp. In addition to the form figured there is a melanic variation, the wings being purplish brown with a white spot near the centre of the forewing. The first report of this moth was from Kent in 2007 and by 2011 larvae had been found in private gardens. This species is now well established in the London area, where it is spreading and the population appears to be growing (and is occasionally found in numbers). In recent years it has gained a strong foothold in Essex, Surrey, Hertfordshire and parts of Berkshire. The moth has now been recorded widely over large parts of England, particularly in the south, with the larval stage being found in several widely distributed localities.

The moth was first reported in Scotland (from Fife) in 2018, it having also been reported from several areas in Wales. There have been increasing reports of the adult moth from coastal localities along southern and south-eastern England, these likely to be primary immigrants from the continent.

Where larval numbers are high it can disfigure ornamental Box hedgerows and topiary and can defoliate plants completely. The Box Moth is also considered to be a serious pest in parts of Europe on various species of box. In late 2018 Butterfly Conservation updated its advice note on this species.

Flight Season

Flies from late July through to mid-September in one generation.

Size and Family

  • Family – Crambidae
  • Medium Sized
  • Wingspan Range – 40mm

Conservation Status

  • UK BAP: Not listed
  • Established immigrant/accidental reintroduction

Caterpillar Food Plants

The caterpillars feed on and are a pest of box (Buxus), and they almost certainly arrived in the UK on imported Buxus plants.


Can be found in gardens in the south of England.


  • Countries – England

  • Imported/possible resident

Downloads and advice

Box Moth Advice Note

Pest moth information

Box Tree Caterpillars – There moth be something you can do!

The summer is here, although it is a typical British variable weather one at the moment! However warm and wet conditions often provide ideal conditions for certain pest species.
One insect species that can be a pest is certain types of moth.
Recently there has been an influx of Diamond Back moths, of which the caterpillars can cause serious damage to brassica crops and plants.
The Diamond Back moth
Diamond Back Moth damage
Another new invader is the Box Tree Caterpillar moth, which has ended up in the south east of the U.K. , after originating from South Asia. The larvae/ caterpillars of this species can have a devastating impact on box plants and hedges.
The plant leaves are shredded and box hedges look like they have serious die back, although this must not be confused with box blight, which is a different problem that box plants can experience. Box Tree Caterpillars eventually spin white webs around themselves as they pupate. This can make treating against them even more difficult. If you think you have a case of Box Tree Caterpillars , you can take part in a survey on the RHS website to monitor where they are spreading to in the UK.
Box Tree Caterpillar
Box Tree Moth Trap
To help and monitor and control this pest, it is possible to use a Box Tree Caterpillar Moth trap. This uses a specific pheromone to attract the male box tree moths to drop into a funnel trap, where they are caught and drowned.
This helps to prevent male moths mating , which in turn reduces female egg laying and hence reduce the development of the caterpillars.
If caterpillars do appear on the box, it is possible to treat with a natural pyrethrum spray . This kills on contact but does not persist on the plant to kill other insects and is not absorbed by the plant. Natural pyrethrum is made from chryanth flowers and is a recognised organic insecticide. One such product is Pyrol bug and larvae killer available on the Dragonfli website along with the new Box Tree Caterpillar moth trap.
Lets keep these pests under control.

Box Tree Moth Infestation can be Controlled says James Crebbin-Bailey.

Taking control

Pheromone traps are essential for every garden with box / Buxus. They are the first line of defence as they are a good indication of whether or not you have Box Tree Caterpillar. If you find the Cydalima perspectalis moth in the bottom of the trap you will need to check your Buxus plants for signs of egg clusters and caterpillars. If a mail moth enters your garden you need to capture it to prevent it from breeding. If a female moth enters it is likely it’s too late, as she will lay eggs on the box leaves.

The pheromone traps contain a lure, which is placed in the upper section of the trap and a small amount of water is put in the bottom, to prevent the moth from escaping. The lure will attract the male moth. There are four lures that come with each trap which need to kept cold, or frozen until use. Each trap covers an area of 0.4h (just under an acre) and each lure will last 5-6 weeks depending on infestation in your area. James explains that he can supply the Pheromone Traps £33.00 + £3.00 p&p. www.topiaryarts.com

What to do when you see the caterpillars

Spraying – Mixed opinions – you cannot spray as a preventative. Bacillus thuringiensis is a parasitoid that acts on small larvae causing muscular paralysis when they start nibbling the box leaves they will be ingesting the pesticide. Biopesticides based on Bacillus thuringiensis are usually the preferred option due to their limited impact on the environment. Products such as Bayer Provado can be purchased from most garden centres or stores and will need to be applied to the Buxus every 10 days.

A professionally qualified sprayer will use Decis, this acts on contact with the caterpillar. This will need to be carried out at 6 week intervals throughout the season – end of March to October. The season varies according to climatic conditions.

Physical control by cutting off infested material, picking off eggs or caterpillars, is also effective. However, feeding the caterpillars to birds is unlikely to be successful due to the toxic levels of Buxus ingested by the caterpillar – what is tasty to the caterpillar is not so for the birds.

Five Ways to Beat the Box Tree Caterpillar

The box tree caterpillar is back and its numbers are increasing. If you’ve got the caterpillar in your garden then you will know the havoc it can cause, stripping box plants of their leaves in a very short period of time.

Box tree caterpillar damage

Box tree caterpillars are relatively easy to spot when you know what to look out for. The obvious signs are small areas of densely woven webbing and below this small grit-like black balls. This is caterpillar poo! Closer investigation will reveal the box tree caterpillar, protecting itself within the webbing and box leaves.

Box tree caterpillar in webbing. Photo Credit: Victoria Bailey

This behaviour makes it very difficult to treat the caterpillar with an insecticide such as Bayer’s Provanto Ultimate Bug Killer as the spray struggles to penetrate the protective webbing and leaves. I’m also not a fan of these contact insecticides. They are fairly indiscriminate about which bugs they target so you risk killing a lot of beneficial pollinating insects in the spraying process.

Here are four other ways to beat the box tree caterpillar that I prefer to recommend:

Box Tree Moth Pheromone Traps

Targeting the source can prove effective at reducing caterpillar numbers. The box tree moth trap works by attracting the male moth with a female box tree moth pheromone. When trapped the male moths can be disposed off before they have a chance to breed. Half filling the trap with water and a dash of washing up liquid is an effective way to ensure the male moths won’t be flying again.

Bayer box tree moth pheromone trap

Other moths and butterflies are not affected by the traps as the pheromone only attracts male box tree moths. And you won’t be encouraging box tree moths into your garden by using the traps as they will already be attracted by the box plants. The pheromone traps act as an early warning system indicating when the male box tree moths are active and another breeding cycle is about to start. This is a good time to spray your box topiary and hedging with my next recommendation.

Biological Insecticide

Biological insectides based on the Bacillus thuringiensis bacterium are the most effective at the targeting the box tree caterpillars. Topbuxus Xentari is the one most talked about but still doesn’t have a license for amateur use in UK gardens. However it is widely available to buy online. Have a look at the Topbuxus website to find out more about it.

Topbuxus Xentari

A caterpillar will soon stop feeding when it eats a box leaf treated with biological insecticide, and will be no more within a couple of days. Other insects are not affected by the biological insecticide as it only targets the pests eating the treated leaves. I’ve also been told birds are not harmed when eating the dead caterpillars.

Apply the biological insecticide as soon as you see caterpillars or your pheromone traps start to fill up with male box tree moths. The treatment is only effective for about 10 days as it is broken down by UV light so you may need to reapply more than once when the caterpillars are active.


Box tree caterpillar nematodes

Nematodes are tiny worms that are mixed with water and applied to the box plants using a watering can, hopefully making contact with the box tree caterpillars in the process. The nematodes maybe small but they soon make short work of the caterpillars and gruesomely use their bodies to reproduce until there are none left.

Nematodes must be applied in the right way to be effective. They are UV sensitive so application in the evening is best. Avoid dry periods as moist conditions are important and keep an eye on the temperature. If it falls below 12C then the nematodes will die.

Nematodes don’t store well. They can be stored in a refrigerator for 4 weeks but best to order them only when you know you have time to treat the box.

Hand Picking

The most time consuming approach but the most effective. Picking off the caterpillars by hand and ‘disposing’ of them is the best way to control their numbers. Dropping the caterpillars in a bucket of water is a good way to say goodbye to them if the thought of squashing caterpillars is not appealing.

Sadly our native birds are not interested in the caterpillars as a food source. Box leaves have toxins in their leaves that make the caterpillars taste pretty awful.

I am hoping that now more people are aware of box tree caterpillar and are taking action, we may be able to reduce their population in future years and reduce the devastating impact they have been having on our box topiary and hedging.

Using box tree pheromone traps will have some effect. But combine this with hand picking or spaying with a biological insecticide and we may have a real impact on the box tree moth and its caterpillars.

Image Credits: EBTS and Victoria Bailey

Box is the backbone of London gardens, whether as hedges or clipped into domes and spirals. But Buxus is under serious threat.

Over the summer the box tree caterpillar has been quietly trashing our city gardens. This very hungry caterpillar can strip mature bushes of leaves in just a couple of days.

Recently the cook and writer Nigel Slater announced on Twitter that he was removing the caterpillar-infested box plants from his Islington garden.

“Today, with a somewhat heavy heart, I made the decision to rip out all the box hedges and topiary,” he tweeted.

“It survived the dreaded box blight but has finally succumbed to the box tree caterpillar. The lot reduced to a grey skeleton in one week.”

Actress and broadcaster Anneka Rice, who also lives in London, has replaced the box plants in her garden with olives and lavender.

Box tree caterpillars probably arrived in London on plants imported from Europe (Alamy Stock Photo)

For the first time in 10 years, slugs and snails have been toppled from the Royal Horticultural Society’s number one garden pest spot, their place taken by the Asian box tree caterpillar which arrived in west London in 2011, probably imported on plants from Europe.

The RHS cites a 66 per cent rise in reports of the pest over this time last year. Most London garden designers now avoid planting box.

It’s not the first time box has taken a beating. Box blight has also been a problem for several years, a fungal disease that can kill the plant.

Small patches can be treated with pruning, fungicides and the foliage spray TopBuxus Health Mix (topbuxus.com).

It’s no wonder battle-weary Londoners are pulling out their hair over these box foes.

However, Richard Barley, director of horticulture at Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, which has seen infestations of the caterpillar for the first time this year, says we shouldn’t give up.

“The impact of caterpillar is far quicker and more obvious than blight damage but though it seems more dramatic it’s just taking the foliage off, it’s not killing the plant,” he says.

“Box caterpillar can be controlled. It’s just a question of timing and the right application.”

Box grows slowly, so replacing mature topiary can be eye-wateringly expensive.

“There are many years invested in making a good topiary and you want to try to save it,” agrees Barley. “There are chemical treatments but some are only available to professionals, which narrows the window for home gardeners. It might be worth getting a contract company.”

One product said to be very effective against caterpillars, XenTari, is not yet licensed for home use in the UK. Some desperate gardeners have apparently got round this by buying it on Amazon from Europe.

Otherwise, call in professionals licensed to use similar chemicals, or persevere with off-the-shelf insecticides such as Bug Clear Ultra which may or may not be up to the task.

The RHS website’s box tree caterpillar page has a list of approved products.

Box hedge stripped by box tree caterpillars (Alamy Stock Photo)

What can you use to replace box?

London designer Charlotte Rowe (charlotterowe.com) finds Japanese mock orange (pittosporum tobira Nanum) and Japanese holly (ilex crenata) are good in pots.

“If we are doing domes/balls in gardens we might use a combination of ilex crenata and taxus baccata ,” she says.

Fellow designer Matt Keightley (rosebanklandscaping.co.uk) agrees and also finds euonymus japonicus Green Rocket good for low hedging. Kew’s Barley suggests rosemary, Chilean myrtle and berberis.

But don’t just take their word for it. To see how these evergreens could look in your garden, head to RHS Wisley (rhs.org.uk/gardens/wisley) where curator Matthew Pottage has been experimenting with alternatives to box in the Walled Garden.

He’s particularly excited about the potential for podocarpus nivalis, a New Zealand plant that can survive cold winters, and he’s also trying out a small-leaf rhododendron Bloombux and holly-leaved berberis darwinii Compacta.

A cultivar of yew called Repandens makes good low hedging, he says. But ilex crenata? “We splashed out four years ago on big, cloud-pruned pieces which took two years to die slowly. They’ll end up on the bonfire.”

For gardening queries email [email protected]

Follow us on Twitter @HomesProperty, Facebook and Instagram

  • More about:
  • Asian box tree caterpillar
  • garden
  • Royal Horticultural Society
  • London

The box moth, Cydalima perspectalis, and its caterpillars quickly destroy box plants. Here’s how to combat these pests.

This is a tale of woe, but it has a happy ending and is, I think, helpful for anyone wanting to continue growing box plants in their garden in the future.

One of the things my friend Bill looks forward to most in spring is the emergent foliage on the many box plants in his garden. In April and May, box has a soft, bright freshness which seems to encompass the essence of the new growing season and is a particularly lovely backdrop to his tulips. Last spring was like any other, Bill recalls, with the new box growth firming and darkening as summer arrived.

Suddenly, in the space of what seemed no more than a week or two, the flowing rivers and shapes of box that are important presences throughout his garden appeared to be ailing. They looked puzzlingly faded and desiccated. Close inspection revealed stems being systematically shredded and defoliated by very hungry caterpillars; too many to count, he says.

The box moth, Cydalima perspectalis, is a recent alien import, whose natural home is East Asia. It’s spread across Europe in the past 10 years; its damage to British gardens was first reported in 2011, although adult moths had already been seen at large in 2008. I had heard about serious, localised eruptions of box-moth damage in the past few years, but hadn’t seen its full-on powers of destruction until it devastated Bill’s garden. It was as if a swarm of locusts had passed through.

In areas where the moth is active, garden centres have done brisk trade in the pesticide Bayer Provado Ultimate Bug Killer, but the evidence suggests it isn’t up to seeing off box moths.

Part of the trouble is that this moth has a clever way of hiding in concealed foliage, looped and tied with a webbing of silk that gives the offspring safe haven. The caterpillars themselves are leafy green and even the pupae are box-green and glue themselves to the branches, looking for all the world like box leaves, while they mature into yet more moths, which will lay hundreds more eggs.

Adult moths, pure white with a brown margin all around the wings, are skittish and hide on many different garden plants as well as in the box itself. Numerous generations will hatch and flourish across the season, so that chemical insecticide spraying is an expensive and ineffective method of control—as well as being potentially harmful to other creatures.

Bill needed help. My searches online indicated the only product that truly controls box moth is Bacillus thuringiensis var Kurstaki, a natural bacterium (not a chemical insecticide) often sold as DiPel or Lepinox. Organic farmers use it to stop butterfly caterpillars demolishing their brassicas.

Although it used to be available in small sachets for gardeners’ use many years ago, subsequent tighter restrictions mean that, recently, it’s only been available to farmers and landscape professionals, with a caveat that training in the use of spraying is required. (This is sensible because DiPel kills all moth and butterfly cater- pillars, not just the ‘baddies’, so extremely disciplined and focused use is required.)

As I’ve done the training and used DiPel in a small way many years ago, I acquired enough of the product online to deal with Bill’s problem. The results were rapidly apparent. Within three days, the caterpillars had gone; within a week, new, unharmed leaf growth was springing up on the treated plants, after just one application.

You need to continue respraying very thoroughly every 7–10 days, however, to deal with later hatchings and break the cycle, until cold weather arrives. Also, shake out and pick off debris on the plants (there’s lots of it) and sweep up under them, as pupae can overwinter.

Instead of grubbing up and burning thousands of pounds’ worth of box, Bill has found that his plants’ rapid willingness to regrow has saved his garden— and lifted his beleaguered spirits.

Box has been hit by various ailments in the past couple of decades, the most serious being box blight, Cylindrocladium buxicola. Numerous gardens that previously boasted fine parterres have been decimated by blight. Now there’s hope for this problem, too, via Topbuxus Health Mix (developed in Holland but easily available online and at some garden centres), which is proving to be helpful in eradicating blight diseases.

‘We dare to claim that we have the worldwide solution for Boxblight,’ declares the topbuxus.com website. It also has its own brand of DiPel: Topbuxus XenTari.

If you have treasured box plants that have been ailing, these days, there’s no need to dig out and burn.

Emperor Moth (Saturnia pavonia). Credit: Juniors Bildarchiv GmbH / Alamy

They might not be considered as beguiling and romantic as butterflies, but we should look at moths in a new

A couple of weeks ago, Alan Titchmarsh wrote a lovely piece for Country Life about how to get children and

Box Tree (Caterpillar)

A relatively new insect pest to Britain is attacking box (Buxus sempervirens) plants. Box tree caterpillars feed on the plants’ leaves within webbing produced over the foliage and can completely defoliate box plants.

Box tree caterpillars were first found in gardens in 2011, although the adult moth was first seen in Britain in 2008. By the beginning of 2015, box tree caterpillars and moths had become established in London and surrounding counties and is now spreading further. Because the caterpillars cause severe defoliation, it is likely to become a serious insect pest problem.


The adult moth normally has white wings with a brown border, although they can be either clear or completely brown or clear. Female moths lay pale yellow eggs in a sheet on the underside of the leaves.

The eggs hatch into caterpillars that have greenish-yellow bodies and black heads. As the caterpillars grow, they develop thick black and thin white stripes along their body and can reach up to 4cm (1½in) in length and spin webbing among the leaves and branches where they feed.

The caterpillars then develop into pupae, which are concealed in a cocoon within the webbing.

Box tree caterpillars only feed on box (Buxus) plants and shouldn’t be confused with other caterpillars.


The caterpillars eat the leaves of box and produce webbing over their feeding area, often causing severe defoliation. Don’t confuse the webbing with the webs of spiders.

Badly affected plants may also show signs of dieback. This may be especially apparent on plants used for hedging or topiary that are trimmed.

Treatment and control

Wherever practical, remove the caterpillars by hand, or prune out stems covered in the webbing and caterpillars and destroy.

Spraying with an insecticide such as BugClear Ultra Gun! may prove useful in their control – a thorough spraying is needed to penetrate the webbing.

Buxus sempervirens otherwise know as Box trees and shrubs is widely grown as a low growing ornamental hedge. Box plants are also frequently cut into ball or pyramid shapes and grown in pots around the front door. For topiary enthusiasts the box plant makes the ideal specimen to work with in shaping all kinds of intricate designs from birds to bi-planes!

In recent years the buxus population here in the UK has been decimated by two pests – namely the Box Tree Caterpillar – Cydalima perspectalis and Box Blight – Cylindrocladium buxicola.

Like most “modern” or should I say millennial pests and diseases these never used to be a problem in the United Kingdom and gardeners could enjoy fantastic lush lines of box hedging and intricate topiary shapes with nary a thought of caterpillar infestation and fungal infection. However due to the decline of coal powered power stations and gas powered central heating replacing the old coal fire there is far less sulphur in our atmosphere hence acid rain which used to plague us here in the UK has almost disappeared. Now you may think this is a good thing and on the whole it is – there is less building erosion and we are living in an overall healthier climate but every silver lining has a cloud 🙂 and we are now getting more garden fungal infections which were previously kept at bay by the sulphuric acid rain falling on our garden plants.

It will not surprise you to discover that the buxus caterpillar was introduced from abroad and joins a long list of other invasive species previously unknown on these shores happily munching their way through the British flora and fauna – who knows perhaps they will all return to mainland Europe on the 31st of October if Boris Johnson has his way!! There are large established populations of Cydalima perspectalis in the South of England but they have steadily been creeping Northwards and can now be found eating Scottish buxus.

Elizabeth & Mark Braimbridge created a National Collection of Buxus plants at their plant Nursery in Langley, Wiltshire. A few years after the collection was passed on to a new owner, the collection fell into neglect and lost its “national collection” status. The only other national collection of buxus was located in Ickworth, East Anglia which also lost it’s status when it was affected by blight in 2015, this meant that the UK had no official Buxus collections.

After a lot of hard work and help from premium box grower “Topbuxus”, Andrew Napier and his wife Lena, along with Ashley Brunning, the current owner of the Langley collection regained “national Collection” status in November 2017. In my next article I will explore the methods they used to grow splendid buxus and how they combated the two pest mentioned above.

Gardening: What you need to know about garden box blight

As box blight and box tree caterpillars continue to damage topiary and hedging nationwide, the RHS offers some alternative plants which won’t succumb.

If your box hedges and topiary have been decimated by box blight and box tree caterpillars in recent years, you might want to try some alternatives.

The problem is that we rely on box for so many things – topiary, carefully clipped hedging and shapely border edges. It’s easy to keep neat and tidy, while its small evergreen leaves make a terrific foil for brightly coloured flowers.

What can we do about the box tree caterpillar?

The box tree moth, originally from East Asia, arrived in Britain in 2007, but it wasn’t until 2011 that larvae were spotted in private gardens in the home counties and it still proving a problem, particularly for gardeners in the south east.

The caterpillars feed within webbing, completely defoliating box plants. Between 2015 and 2016, the RHS received more than 800 reports of the moth, jumping to more than 3,000 in 2017 and more than 6,000 last year.

The yellow, green and black caterpillars may be difficult to see unless you look hard, but if you find them, pick them off. For larger outbreaks you may have to go to the garden centre or online for a biological control product.

The entomology and pathology teams at the RHS have already had 1,200 inquiries about box tree caterpillars in the last year and are anticipating damage to be high in August – as the current generation of caterpillars will by now be approaching pupation and, as they are larger, their feeding damage will be more noticeable.

How bad is box blight?

Box blight, a fungal disease which appeared in Britain in the 1990s, causes the leaves to brown and eventual defoliation, as stems die back.

The RHS teams anticipate, however, that box blight will be down due to the largely warm and dry weather this summer, which was also the case in 2018.

Will your box recover?

If you want to persevere with your box, the blight doesn’t kill the roots so you may be able to revive it, but not without a lot of TLC.

To aid its recovery, cut out damaged areas in dry weather, make sure your sharp shears are disinfected every time you use them and don’t compost the infected clippings.

Good plant hygiene is important if you want to prevent further outbreaks, so remove fallen leaves and debris from the ground around your box, make sure there’s good air circulation and don’t water them from above.

In spring, keep box strong by giving them a feed of blood, fish and bone meal.

What alternatives are there?

If you don’t want to risk the box tree moth or box blight ruining your prized topiary and hedging, could you plant something which won’t be affected?

Guy Barter, RHS chief horticulturist, recommends the following alternatives:

1. Japanese holly (Ilex crenata)

If you want a plant which looks like your prized box, then this slow-growing evergreen is hard to beat. It needs light, well-drained slightly acid soil in sun or partial shade and makes an excellent low hedge.

2. Euonymus japonica

Dwarf cultivars such as ‘Jean Hughes’ are very robust and perform well in hedge or topiary form. It also boasts a lovely mossy foliage.

3. Lonicera nitida

This is easy to grow and inexpensive, but it is more vigorous than box so will need trimming several times a year. However, it will quickly produce a sturdy hedge and can easily be shaped for topiary.

4. Osmanthus x burkwoodii

This dense, slow-growing, large evergreen shrub with pretty dark green, ovate leaves, 2.5-5cm in length, offers the added bonus of clusters of small, highly-scented white flowers in spring, occasionally followed by a few black fruits in autumn.

5. Pittosporum tenuifolium

This compact evergreen can be easily clipped to hedge forms, providing bright green foliage which can be trimmed in late summer.

6. Phillyrea angustifolia

This makes a great topiary alternative to box as it is an easily clipped evergreen shrub, and can also be planted to make neat hedging.

7. Berberis darwinii ‘Nana’

This evergreen with little spiky holly-like leaves is perfect as a low hedge, but also produces striking orange-yellow flowers from April to May, followed in autumn by purple-black fruits which the birds love.

The RHS is asking those who have box tree caterpillar in their gardens to report it as part of its ongoing citizen science survey to help the charity better understand the caterpillars’ spread. For details go to www.rhs.org.uk.

Gardeners have their hands full tackling box hedge-eating caterpillar

Box was one of the plants used to create geometric designs in formal gardens in the past, and the Trust uses it to recreate those styles, which benefit from the plant being evergreen and “clippable” into tight shapes.

The Royal Horticultural Society has a garden at Wisley which focuses on alternatives to box (RHS/Joanna Kossak/PA)

Staff are being urged to check every day for caterpillars at this time of year and manually remove the pests – doing everything from vacuuming them up to picking them off by hand.

The Trust is also trialling other methods, including deterring the caterpillars using aromatic oils such as rosemary and lavender.

Caterpillars are not the only problem facing the historic gardens the National Trust looks after, with box hedges already hit by a fungal disease called box blight.

On the issue of replacing box with other plants, Mr Toomer said: “To some extent we’ve already been prepared through box blight to think about alternatives but they’re very much a second-best in many places.

“When we feel it’s part of the place we will fight as much as we can.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *