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Ghosts in your bushes?

The case of the rustling boxwoods

4-Minute Read

Have you ever walked by a bush, or series of bushes, and thought you heard them rustling? Or worse, sort of whispering?? You may not be crazy – it might be bugs!

I have a long row of tall boxwood bushes along my walkway, from the driveway most of the way to the front door. Last year I noticed that they seemed to rustle a little every time I walked by. At first I thought maybe I was a bonkers. Then I wondered if it was maybe some weird acoustics with the house (I hadn’t lived in this house long enough at that point to know if this was normal or not). Upon closer inspection, I realized a bunch of the leaves on the bushes were much yellower than they should be (in my opinion). At that point it dawned on me how silly I am – I’m an entomologist, why didn’t it occur to me before– its probably a bug infestation!

Boxwood bushes lining my walkway

Sure enough, looking more closely, I could see what appeared to be some kind of speckling all over the leaves. This was a sign that something very small has been feeding on the already very small leaves. There were also little white fluffy tufts of stuff all over the plants. I managed to find a few tiny hoppy looking nymphs (immature bugs), but no adults. That’s ok. Even without an adult insect to examine, with the evidence I did have, I could safely conclude I don’t have ghosts. I have Boxwood Psyllids, Psylla buxi!

Boxwood Psyllid damage

Well that’s kinda fun I thought. I’ve never had boxwoods or Boxwood Psyllids before (yes, I know its strange I think its fun when a new bug eats my plants). And that’s really the last I thought about them. Until this year. This year I have absolutely no problem finding adults on the bushes. Apparently they must have had a really good year last year/early this season. Now there are so many adult Boxwood Psyllids present I can’t even walk by the bushes to the front door without getting covered with the little buggers! Its absolutely insane! There is even a robin living in one of these bushes, but apparently is not helping with psyllid population control.

Boxwood Psyllid adult sitting on me

I feel super bad for the delivery person every time we get a package at the front door – it can’t be a pleasant experience getting coated in bugs every time you drop off a package. Granted these tiny little things don’t bite and can’t hurt you, unless they fly in your eye – which they might, but nobody wants to be coated by a ton of tiny bugs all over your person. * Sigh * They are so abundant and annoying that my partner is now talking about spraying them. Normally I am very much against pesticides or chemicals of any kind – I love finding all the crazy diversity we have on this property (including the bazillions of birds, frogs, and other things that like my bugs). Maybe he’s right though. It can’t be good for the bushes supporting such a large population of sap-suckers. And I don’t want to have to dig out and replace a bunch of dead bushes. Its definitely not good for mailperson relations either…. * huge sigh * Maybe if I procrastinate long enough, the population will crash on its own? She asked dubiously hopeful… We are really, really, excellent procrastinators….

I’m guessing ghosts in the bushes would have actually been better than psyllids – certainly for our bushes.

Boxwood Psyllid adult sitting on the bush
Boxwood Psyllid adult sitting on the bush

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Written by an entomologist for the enjoyment of all... The goal is to post 1 or 2 new stories every week, so stay tuned!