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Umm...The Boxwoods Are Talking....

Moms View Message Board: General Discussion Archive: Archive April 2005: Umm...The Boxwoods Are Talking....
By Kate on Saturday, April 16, 2005 - 12:26 pm:

I have 12 boxwood bushes, about a foot and a half high and wide. I've had them for about six years. This year I noticed they are TALKING!!! They snap, crackle, and pop, EXACTLY like Rice Krispies!! I've never heard this sound from them before! It's totally bizarre!! I stared at the leaves and buds, trying to see if they were opening at rapid speed and making sound, but nothing moves. Is it chlorophyll, or whatever it is they make, crackling inside the leaves and stems?? They do this in shade as well as sun. Spring has JUST arrived here. Weird!

By Palmbchprincess on Saturday, April 16, 2005 - 12:44 pm:

Did you spike your Cheerios this morning? I'm kidding... I have no idea what would cause this, maybe Bea or Dawn would know? That is just weird!

By Colette on Saturday, April 16, 2005 - 01:50 pm:

I would look very closely and see if you have some kind of insect infestation.

By Pamt on Saturday, April 16, 2005 - 03:03 pm:

Our boxwoods have lots of little lizards running around in them and they get pretty noisy. Could that be it?

By Kate on Saturday, April 16, 2005 - 03:45 pm:

No no no!!! Don't tell me I have bugs or reptiles!! Ack!! I did study them...I see no movement whatsoever, and they appear perfectly healthy. Six are on one side of the house, and six waaaaay over on another side. They ALL talk. I would imagine if there was an infestation it wouldn't be all 12 since all 12 aren't together?? So since ALL of them seems more like a boxwood thing than a bug thing. I hope!

By Cocoabutter on Saturday, April 16, 2005 - 06:07 pm:

No clue about why they are "talking" to you, but I found a page on Boxwood bushes at the website here!

United States National Arboretum

By Kate on Saturday, April 16, 2005 - 09:18 pm:

Okay there is not a single bug or lizard on them. I don't even think lizards exist around here! I've never in my life seen a lizard except in Florida. Anyway, I can't find any info but I DID find two other people posting the same question as me, but they didn't get any answers.

By Ginny~moderator on Sunday, April 17, 2005 - 03:26 am:

Here is a pdf document I found by putting "noisy boxwood" into Google. On page 3, it suggests a certain kind of insect problem.

It may be that these insects, which are a kind of leaf miner, are inside the stems and leaves and you can't see them. The article does suggest that this could be a serious problem if unchecked.

By Dana on Sunday, April 17, 2005 - 02:31 pm:

No helpful comments. I just this is a very funny post :) A "talking plant!" Hope you dont have severe buggies going on inside.

By Cocoabutter on Friday, April 29, 2005 - 12:58 am:

I looked and looked all over the internet the day I read your post, and since I found no answers to a noisy boxwood, I decided to email the Boxwood Society. This was just as much to satisfy my own curiosity as it was yours! I finally got a response! Here it is:

They are leafminers.

It would be best to contact a garden center in your area that has certified nurseryman on staff, and they should be able to help you with more specific advice, or contact your local county cooperative extension agent for disease and pest problems.

Attached is an excerpt from the ABS BOXWOOD HANDBOOK - A Practical Guide to Knowing and Growing Boxwood by Lynn R. Batdorf.
For additional information, you can order the BOXWOOD HANDBOOK - A Practical Guide to Knowing and Growing Boxwood by Lynn R. Batdorf for $15.00 + $3.00 shipping from:

Treasurer, American Boxwood Society
P. 0. Box 85
Boyce, VA 22620-0085

The Mystique of Boxwood

Most gardeners are at least generally aware of boxwood, but few are aware that it is Man's oldest ornamental plant. They know of its reputation, but would be hard put to identify any of the 300 cultivars.

Boxwood is a familiar neighbor in the eastern United States, particularly in the middle Atlantic area, but even there boxwood is not well understood. This book is for all of these gardeners. It is a distillation of the body of knowledge which has accumulated over the years, presented in a useful and understandable form.

It tells all you need to know to successfully select, propagate, and care for boxwood plants. It gives authoritative descriptions of the most popular boxwoods.

Highly recommended publication!

Hope this helps!

Jeff Miller, Webmaster
The American Boxwood Society


The boxwood leafminer, Monarthropalpus buxi, is actually a gall midge and not a leafminer. It is a serious insect pest of boxwood. A high population can defoliate and kill boxwoods. Injury is caused by the larvae (maggots) feeding in the leaf and resulting in premature leaf drop. Most cultivars of B. sempervirens and B. microphylla are susceptible to the leaf miner.

What does leafminer damage look like?

The boxwood leafminer feeds on the tissue between the top and bottom of the leaf. The resulting damage appears as an irregular oval swelling on the leaf. There may be a slight blistering of the leaf on the lower sur­face with a yellowish or brown discoloration. The new foliage will not show this blistering effect until late summer. The female, a true bug, enters the leaf through the stoma, a natural opening in the leaf sur­face used for the exchange of air. Early signs are holes on the lower leaf surface after the female deposits her eggs. These punctures are visible if the leaves are closely inspected. Leafminers prefer the protected part of the boxwood, the lower and innermost new leaves. Damage from high infestations results in premature leaf-drop.

Understanding the leafminer life cycle

The leafminer produces a single generation each year. They overwinter as translucent yellowish-green, partly grown larvae inside the leaves. During the early, warm days of spring they grow rapidly into yellow-orange colored pupae. They time their pupation so that the adults emerge from the underside of the leaf as flies in late April usually when Weigela begins to bloom. The adult fly is a little shorter than 1/2" long and resembles an orange mosquito. The flies emerge over a three-week period, leaving noticeable white pupal skins, which hang down from the undersurface of the leaf.

It is easy to notice the yellow-to-orange colored adults flying around from leaf to leaf, particularly if the plant is disturbed. The females quickly begin laying small white eggs deep into the leaf tissue from the under side of the new spring leaves. The entry points, tiny egg-laying ruptures, can be seen on the underside of the leaf. One female will deposit about 30 eggs, often dying within hours of laying her last eggs. The eggs will develop for three to four weeks. The resulting larvae will feed inside the leaf all summer, fall, and early the following spring.

During feeding, the larvae use a microscopic hook to rupture the leaf cells. The plant responds by sending more biomass into the leaf, which gives the larvae more to eat.

How to control leafminer

Control is necessary when persistent or intolerable damage is observed. The leafminer is most susceptible right after the adult emerges and before the eggs are laid. The adults emerge over a three-week period, but each lives for only two days.

Control measures should be scheduled-when adults are seen, usually late April to early May. Contact insecticides are effective when used against the adult. Systemic insecticides may be used against the first instar of the larvae in mid-June.

Birds, apparently able to hear the larvae inside the leaf, have been known to attack high populations of larvae. While cold temperature does not cause mortality to the over-wintering larvae, they will dry up and die through the lack of moisture during hot, dry summers.

Excerpted from the ABS Boxwood Handbook - A Practical Guide to Knowing and Growing Boxwood by Lynn R Batdorf, Curator of Boxwood Perennial and Aquatic Plants at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, DC

By Mrsheidi on Friday, April 29, 2005 - 07:36 am:

Wow. They must be pretty small to get through a stoma. I swear, you learn something new every day!

By Amecmom on Friday, April 29, 2005 - 08:41 am:

Great research, Lisa! Now, I have to go out and listen ti my hedges, too!

By Bea on Friday, April 29, 2005 - 02:42 pm:


By Bea on Friday, April 29, 2005 - 02:56 pm:

Boxwood Leafminer

An unusual phenomenon was observed (heard) last season involving boxwood leafminer (Monarthropalpus flavus). In late April, landscape managers and home gardeners in central and southern Ohio began reporting that they were hearing faintly audible crinkling or rustling noises emanating from boxwoods. Thorough examinations of the shrubs and extensive observations failed to reveal birds, or rodents, or any other familiar noise-maker cavorting among the branches or under leaf debris. Indeed, the sounds seemed to come from the plants themselves! It was eventually determined that boxwood leafminer pupae were the noisemakers. This tiny fly spends the winter in the larval stage in blister-like leaf mines. As spring approaches, the orangish-yellow larvae resume feeding for a short period, then pupate. The pupae are also orangish-yellow in color, and they are very active wigglers. They not only wiggle about within the leaf mines, but as adult emergence approaches, the pupae wiggle themselves partially out of the mines. This generally occurs at about the same time weigela begins to bloom. This wiggling pupal activity was considered to be the source of the faint crinkling sounds.Unusual noises aside, this leafminer can become a very serious pest. Larvae feed on parenchyma tissue within leaves and they may produce multiple blister mines. The mines turn yellowish-brown in the late spring, and damaged leaves are often evident throughout the summer. Heavy infestations may weaken plants by causing severe branch dieback. Adults generally begin to emerge in early May and can be seen flittering among the leaves of boxwoods. The small, gnat-like flies have abdomens that are about the same orangish-yellow color as the larvae and pupae. While adulticide applications may provide some reduction in populations, the best control options target the larvae. Larval control options to prevent mines include applications of imidacloprid (e.g., Merit) made in the fall or in the spring as a soil drench, or acephate (e.g., Orthene) as a foliar spray in mid-to-late May.

By Kate on Friday, April 29, 2005 - 03:36 pm:

Sigh....thank you soooo much Lisa, Ginny, and Bea, and everyone else! I appreciate the info, although I'm not pleased by it!!! TWELVE infected plants? Sheesh! They are much quieter now, although still faint noises are there. They must have hatched....I shall observe them now for all those awful signs they mentioned. Thanks again!

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