Wanstead is currently overrun with nasty little caterpillars which have devastated hundreds of gardeners’ box trees. And the forecast isn’t good.
Wansteadium has been warning since 2016 about the rise of the box caterpillar, and sadly it’s now come true with long-established and cultivated plants being stripped of their leaves. The pest was first detected in the UK in 2011 and has been gradually spreading north. It arrived in Wanstead in 2015/6.
There is little gardeners can do to tackle the pest, apart from picking the caterpillars off by hand and using powerful pesticides, which many people won’t want to do. Anecdotal evidence suggests Bayer’s Provado Ultimate Bug Killer (available at Heads n Tails) can have some effect, but some gardeners will conclude that pulling up the boxes is a better solution.
The new campaign group Wild Wanstead, which is encouraging people to make the most of their gardens, has this list of suggested alternatives to box.