Eliminate Browntail Caterpillars Now!

February 27, 2019

For more information, contact: Maine Forest Service at 207-287-2431

Helpful tips from State of Maine Entomologists

AUGUSTA- This National Invasive Species Awareness Week, entomologists from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry remind you that now is the best time to remove browntail caterpillars from trees that are accessible. Browntail caterpillars cause a poison ivy-like rash and they are impacting a broad swath of Maine. Contact with this caterpillar's hairs can cause severe reactions for some individuals.

Browntail caterpillars spend the winter webbed in silken-wrapped leaves on the tips of branches of oak, birch, cherry, apple and other hardwood trees. NOW is the time to look for the bright white silk tying a few leaves to the TIPS of oak and fruit tree branches. If you see a web CLIP IT OUT and destroy the web by dropping it in a bucket of soapy water and soaking it overnight; do not just leave it on the ground. The caterpillars are ready to go once warmer weather arrives, so do this task as soon as possible!

Browntail caterpillar webs can be found regularly in Maine from the New Hampshire border to Deer Isle, and inland to Raymond, Turner, Rome, Smithfield, Burnham and Eddington. They are worst along the coast from Falmouth to Bristol and up the Kennebec River to Richmond. In 2017, outlying patches of defoliation were found in the towns of Belgrade, Burnham, Eddington, Liberty, Lincolnville, Turner and Whitefield. The moths have been seen all the way west to Kingfield, north to Ashland and east to Topsfield on the New Brunswick border.

As we all have heard, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." People have known that to be true of browntail for more than 100 years. Learn how to recognize browntail moth webs by visiting the websites below, then go out and check your trees for their presence. If you find them and can reach them, clip and destroy them. If you can't reach them and plan to treat them, now is the time to line up professional help for this spring.

Don't have trees? Survey a public space in your town. If you think you've found webs, but are not sure, contact the Maine Forest Service for help. Additional advice may be obtained from your nearest Cooperative Extension office or Soil & Water Conservation District.

Background information, a video showing how to clip the webs, a list of arborists who could prune webs out of your reach and a list of licensed pesticide applicators can be found at: http://www.maine.gov/dacf/mfs/foresthealth/invasivethreats/browntailmothinfo.htm

For More Information: Contact the Maine Forest Service 287-2431 or your local University of Maine Cooperative Extension Office.

Supporting documents

This web could have more than 400 caterpillars in it. As those caterpillars grow, contact with hairs from them cause a rash for most people and can cause serious reactions in sensitive individuals. Clip webs and soak them in a bucket of soapy water overnight or destroy to reduce the numbers of larger caterpillars this spring and summer.