Dr Stephanie Bird

Stephanie is investigating control methods for box tree moth and assessing the year-round availability of pollinator-friendly plants. She supports RHS Gardening Advice, replying to members’ enquiries about garden invertebrates and plant diseases

What do you do?

I work with RHS Gardening Advice to answer members’ entomology and plant pathology enquiries. My work varies throughout the year, both in terms of the number and nature of enquiries. Enquiries may be about plant problems or beneficial organisms and cover invertebrate identifications such as bee-fly in the spring, through to advising on pear rust in the summer, what is causing the holes in leaves in autumn and the best plants to promote pollinating insects in the winter.
With the high numbers of members’ enquiries received in the summer, it can often be difficult to fit in the data collection required for research, which inevitably also needs to be undertaken at this time. Previous fieldwork has involved the maintenance of a captive population of box tree moth, application of nematodes to experimental treatments, soil core collection as well as the harvesting, processing and assessing of carrot roots for carrot fly damage.
I also provide support to a Bristol University PhD student and RHS summer placement students. As a STEM ambassador I have visited schools, helped during outreach events (National Science Week and National Insect Week) and have been an RHS Green Plan It mentor.

“Maintaining a beautiful garden requires balance – in the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – well, I must endure the presence of two or three caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies.’’

Why is your team’s research important?

The research I do is directly influenced by members’ enquiries. Box tree moth reached the number one position in the RHS top 10 entomology enquiries in 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019 and is of great concern to UK gardeners.
Insect declines, particularly relating to pollinators, are of global importance. As the UK is becoming increasingly urbanised, gardens represent a valuable refuge for biodiversity. Gardeners’ planting decisions can support pollinators; knowing which plants are already being grown and to what extent will help us develop recommendations to improve gardens for pollinators.

Projects I’m working on now

  • Box tree moth: natural enemies
  • Box tree moth: improving the efficacy of control methods
  • Box integrated pest and disease management
  • Which pollinator-friendly plants are grown in gardens?

Completed projects

  • Plants for Bugs: The impact of native and exotic plants on soil biodiversity and ecosystem function
  • Box tree moth: susceptibility of box tree moth to nematodes


Publishing a paper based on my undergraduate research was a highlight for me. I looked at how low levels of light pollution affect the ability of male glow worms to find females. It was the first project I designed from scratch and it was a glimpse into how time-consuming data collection can be. It involved a summer’s worth of very late nights out on a hillside in Princes Risborough.


  • Bird S, Raper C, Dale-Skey N, Salisbury A. (2020) First records of two natural enemies of box tree moth, Cydalima perspectalis (Lepidoptera: Crambidae), in Britain. British Journal of Entomology & Natural History, 33 (1), pp67–70
  • Salisbury A, Al-Beidh S, Armitage J, Bird S, Bostock H, Platoni A, Tatchell M, Thompson K, Perry J. (2019) Enhancing gardens as habitats for soil surface invertebrates: should we plant native or exotic species? Biodiversity and Conservation, 29, pp129–51
  • Platoni A, Bird S, Waghorn I, Perry J, Collier R, Clover G. (2019) Using physical barriers to prevent carrot fly (Psila rosae (Fabricius)) damage in domestic production. Journal of Applied Entomology, Vol 143, Issue 10, pp1089–95
  • Plant C, Poole C, Salisbury A, Bird S. (2019) The box-tree moth Cydalima perspectalis (Walker, 1859) in Britain: an overview of its spread and current status. The Entomologist’s Record and Journal of Variation, 131, pp122–47
  • Bird S, Salisbury A. (2018) First record of blue mint beetle Chrysolina coerulans (Scriba, 1791) (Chrysomelidae) in Scotland and further records received by the Royal Horticultural Society since 2012. The Coleopterist, 27, pp123–24
  • Salisbury A, Al-Beidh S, Armitage J, Bird S, Bostock H, Platoni A, Tatchell M, Thompson K, Perry J. (2017) Enhancing gardens as habitats for plant-associated invertebrates: should we plant native or exotic species? Biodiversity and Conservation, 26, pp2657–73
  • Bird S, Parker J. (2014) Low levels of light pollution may block the ability of male glow-worms (Lampyris noctiluca) to locate females. Insect Conservation, 18, (4), pp737–43

PhD Students

  • Co-supervisor to Nick Tew studying for a PhD on quantifying and enhancing floral resources for pollinators in urban areas at the University of Bristol

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.