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Box sucker

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last updated Apr 24, 2014
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Box sucker damage. Credit: RHS/Science.

Box hedges and topiary are often affected by box sucker, although the damage caused is not usually serious.

What is box sucker? Back to top

Box sucker is a sap-sucking insect, also known as box psyllid, that feeds at the shoot tips of box plants in spring.

Box can suffer from a number of other problems.

Symptoms Back to top

  • New shoot extension in spring is stunted and the cupped leaves at the shoot tips produce a cabbage-like appearance
  • Droplets of liquid, coated with a white waxy substance, excreted by the sucker nymphs often spills from the cupped leaves in late spring, leaving white waxy smears on foliage
  • In April to May flattened, pale green, wingless nymphs live among the leaves at the shoot tips

Control Back to top

Non-chemical control

Control is unnecessary on established box hedges or topiary plants that are going to be clipped.

Chemical control

If damage is serious to plants that need to grow larger can be sprayed with deltamethrin (e.g. Bayer Sprayday Greenfly Killer, Bayer Provado Ultimate Fruit & Vegetable Bug Killer) lambda-cyhalothrin (e.g. Westland Resolva Bug Killer), acetamiprid (e.g. Bug Clear Ultra) or thiacloprid (e.g. Bayer Provado Ultimate Bug Killer). Use when newly-hatched nymphs first appear on the new growth in spring. There is no point in spraying later in the spring once the feeding damage has occurred..

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Pesticides for gardeners (Adobe Acrobat pdf document outlining pesticides available to gardeners)

Biology Back to top

  • Box sucker overwinters as eggs on its host plant. These hatch in spring when new growth begins in April
  • The nymphs suck the plant's sap and secrete chemicals that stunt new growth and distort the leaf shape
  • The nymphs excrete a sugary liquid called honeydew that is coated with a white waxy secretion from their bodies
  • Yellowish brown winged adults, 2-3mm long (1/8in), develop in May to June
  • No further damage occurs after June

Quick facts

Common name Box sucker
Scientific name Psylla buxi
Plants affected Buxus sempervirens
Main symptoms Leaves at the shoot tip are cupped. In late spring, flattened pale green insects and a white waxy substance are present
Most active April–early June

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