Browntail Moth - Euproctis chrysorrhoea (L.)

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Frequently Asked Questions

Partners at Maine Forest Service, Maine Board of Pesticides Control, Maine Center for Disease Control, Cooperative Extension and others have put together an extensive list of frequently asked questions. Questions cover topics from biology, to management, to policy to pets.

How do I avoid exposure to the browntail moth toxic hairs? +

  • When working in heavily infested areas, wear proper protective equipment to reduce exposure including:
    • Long sleeves
    • Long pants
    • Goggles
    • Dust mask/respirator
    • Hat
    • Disposable coveralls
  • Avoid heavily infested areas between April and August, don't use leaf blowers or lawnmowers on dry days in these areas
  • Using pre-contact poison ivy wipes can help minimize hairs sticking into exposed skin
  • Do yardwork on wet days, which decreases the likelihood that the hairs will become airborne.
  • Make sure to use a HEPA filter on a wet/dry vacuum to decrease the likelihood that the hairs will become airborne.
  • Do not dry laundry outside in infested areas.

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When is the greatest risk of getting the rash? +

  • The greatest risk for exposure to the toxic hairs is between April and July.
  • Caterpillars, shed skins, and cocoons all have toxic hairs.
  • The toxin is stable in the environment for one to three years and hairs can become airborne at any time.
  • It is important to take precautions year-round in heavily infested areas.

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When do browntail moth adults fly? +

  • Adults emerge in July and are flying through August. Peak activity around lights at night is between 10 pm and 12 am.

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Do the browntail moths also have toxic hairs like the caterpillar? +

  • There is a possibility of adult moths picking up the toxic hairs from the caterpillar stage as the moths emerge from their cocoons; however, the brown hairs on the abdomen are not the toxic hairs.
  • The caterpillars, pupal cocoons, and shed skins have the toxic hairs that can cause a skin rash.
  • The hairs on the adult moths are not toxic and do not cause a skin rash.

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How can I get rid of browntail moth adults? +

  • A wet/dry vacuum with a HEPA filter and filled with a few inches of soapy water.
  • Keep outdoor lights off at night during the last week of June to the first week in August

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Does killing browntail moth adults (moths) help with management? +

  • Moths found on buildings and in light traps are primarily males. Killing males is unlikely to reduce the next generation of browntail moth.
  • Using a bug-zapper or other device to kill insects attracted to lights is not recommended. It will kill insects that might help control browntail moth and other pests as well as browntail moths. It will also attract more browntail moths to the area. Females attracted to an area by lights tend to hang out in host tree foliage and are not captured in high numbers with these methods.

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All Frequently Asked Questions

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Browntail Moth Update #11: June 28, 2024

Adult browntail moths are here; we received the first report of an adult browntail moth from our collaborator at the University of Maine in Orono, Dr. Angela Mech on June 26th, 2024. Adult browntail moths typically fly from late June to early August and have white wings (sometimes with a single black dot on each forewing) and fuzzy white legs with a reddish-brown abdomen. This brown abdomen or “tail” is what gives browntail moth its common name.

Browntail moth adults are highly attracted to lights. Making your property less attractive to adult browntail moths may reduce the amount of browntail moths flying and mating in your trees, therefore reducing the amount of browntail moth eggs (and future caterpillars!).

Browntail moth adults resting near an outdoor ceiling lamp. Augusta, ME.
Browntail moth adults resting near an outdoor ceiling lamp. Augusta, ME.

Although there are limited options for browntail moth management at this time of year, there is an important mitigation strategy involving light. Follow the steps below to help reduce browntail moths on your property.

  • Turning off any unnecessary outdoor lighting from late June through early August can help avoid attracting browntail moth to your yard.
  • Switch from white-blue-colored outdoor lightbulbs to yellow-colored outdoor lightbulbs if you cannot turn off your outdoor lighting. Research from Dr. Mech's lab suggests yellow-colored bulbs are less attractive to adult browntail moths.
  • Don't use light traps or bug zappers to kill adult browntail moths. Light traps and bug zappers may only serve to attract more moths to the yard, while killing Maine's beneficial insects. Although a trap may kill some adult browntail moths, it serves as an inviting beacon for both males and females, which may help them find each other and reproduce in your trees.
Adult browntail moths covering the shrub by an outdoor light source. Augusta, ME.
Adult browntail moths covering the shrub by an outdoor light source. Augusta, ME.

Identifying adult browntail moth

Maine is home to many other white moths which are active at the same time as browntail, this can make browntail moth identification confusing. The comparison chart below was created to help distinguish and identify some of the most common lookalikes.

Chart comparing the diagnostic features of three common lookalikes with adult browntail moth.
Chart comparing the diagnostic features of three common lookalikes with adult browntail moth.

Wear protection if removing adult browntail moths

Each year, we receive a few reports of residents developing rashes after washing moths off the sides of their buildings. Some individuals are highly sensitive to foreign hairs and can react similarly to various species of hairy moths. While adult browntail moths have many hairs, these hairs are not the toxic ones found on the caterpillars, as confirmed through microscopy. However, adult moths may carry residual irritating hairs from the pupal packets they formed as caterpillars. So, please be cautious when removing moths from any area.

Will you have browntail moth adults flying in your area?

Browntail moth adults are highly attracted to lights. Even if you live in an area without significant browntail caterpillar activity, your outdoor lights can be a beacon to browntail moths traveling on summer winds. 

Don't use light traps or bug zappers to kill adult browntail moths. Using light traps or other light sources to target browntail may end up killing more of Maine's beneficial insects instead of reducing browntail moths. Check out this informative article on understanding the 7 impacts of light trap use from the Master Gardener Foundation below. 

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2023 Browntail Moth Awareness Month Webinar

Browntail Moth Mitigation Fund

The application period has now closed. The Division of Procurement Services Grant RFP/RFA page will have updates as soon as they are available. Please stay tuned for more updates.

General Information

Adult browntail moth white with brown abdomenThe browntail moth is an insect of forest and human health concern which was accidently introduced into Somerville, Massachusetts from Europe in 1897. By 1913, the insect had spread to all of the New England states and New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Since that time, populations of this pest slowly decreased due to natural controls until the 1960's, when browntail moth was limited to Cape Cod and a few islands off the Maine coast in Casco Bay. Browntail moth populations are again building in Maine and are found in patches along the coast and up to 60 miles inland from the western Maine border to the New Brunswick border, with the greatest concentrations in mid-coastal Maine and the capital region.

The larval stage (caterpillar) of this insect feeds on the foliage of hardwood trees and shrubs including: oak, shadbush, apple, cherry, beach plum, and rugosa rose. Larval feeding causes reduction of growth and occasional mortality of valued trees and shrubs. Learn More: How to Identify Maine’s Main Defoliating Caterpillars (YouTube) / Life Cycle of Browntail Moth (PDF)

While feeding damage may cause some concern, the primary impact on humans by browntail moth results from contact with poisonous hairs produced by the caterpillars. Microscopic, toxic hairs break off the caterpillars and can be airborne or settled on surfaces in browntail moth infested areas. Sensitive individuals who encounter the hairs may develop a skin rash similar to poison ivy and/or trouble breathing. Symptoms can last anywhere from a few hours to several weeks and can be severe in some individuals. Learn More: Maine CDC Browntail Moth Information

Management Techniques

Focus management on populations that will directly impact people, pets and livestock or pose a high risk of contributing to spread.

For Smaller Trees & Shrubs +

Browntail web removal: Webs in small trees and shrubs, safely within reach of the ground, and without hazards such as powerlines, can be removed between October and March. Browntail caterpillars emerge from their webs and begin feeding in mid-April, therefore webs removed after this time will not contain caterpillars and not be effective. Destroy webs once removed (burn, soak for an extended period in soapy water, or dispose of in trash). With permission, you can do this on properties you don’t own or manage. If there are hazards, or you need to leave the ground, this is work for a licensed arborist.

Use extreme caution if burning webs. Never burn unless the branches have been clipped off. This type of burning requires a burn permit. For more information, please visit and check the daily forest fire danger report.

Browntail caterpillar treatment: Pesticide applications are most effective for browntail caterpillars when the pesticide product can take effect before late May. Treatments after that time are not recommended and are not part of an effective integrated approach to management (or IPM strategy). Since caterpillars are already wandering to new locations, targeted applications are not possible. Further, pesticide applications at this time of year are more likely to impact other living species in your trees, including pollinators and native insects, without effectively reducing the impacts from browntail. At this time, there are many shed caterpillar skins and toxic hairs that have already built up in the environment. To have more effective control of browntail, plan to target the next generation of caterpillars by scouting out new winter webs this winter to determine which trees you may want to treat next spring

Applications must be consistent with the label directions. Consider hiring a licensed pesticide applicator. In most years, treatment should be effective (caterpillars killed) before late May. Later treatments do little to reduce both hairs in the environment and damage to hosts.

If you are managing browntail moth using pesticides within 250 feet of the mean high tide mark adjacent to coastal waters and extending upriver or upstream to the first bridge, additional rules apply.

If you are unlicensed, do not use this approach on properties that are not yours or are open to the public.

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For Webs in Taller Trees +

Hire professional help to treat webs out of reach or near hazards on the property you own or manage. Line up help during fall or winter.

Licensed Professional Arborists can remove BTM webs in larger trees and shrubs (October to March).

Arborist pruning browntail moth webs.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Operators with an FAA Remote Pilot License may provide services using UAVs with attachments that physically remove webs.There is no requirement that these operators have knowledge of tree care. As in working with any professional, confirm your prospective contractor is adequately insured and qualified to provide the service.

For large trees, there are very limited insecticidal products (PDF) that are readily available to and applied by unlicensed individuals and that can legally be applied to target trees and life stages of browntail moth.** In trees where the caterpillars' hairs cause a nuisance and where it is not practical to remove the webs, Licensed Pesticide Applicators may be able to use insecticides during the growing season to manage BTM.

**Acecaps are not registered for use in Maine because the label does not meet federal standards for pesticide labeling. It is therefore not legal to use Acecaps. The Maine Board of Pesticides Control has provided support to the manufacturer to explain what needs to be changed to come into compliance and encouraged the manufacturer to work with EPA to bring their label up to standards. If we become aware of a change in status, we will update this message. You can check the current registration status by entering the product name in this database.**

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Where is Browntail Moth in Maine?

Maine Forest Service conducts surveys for browntail moth from small planes and from moving trucks. These are broad-scale surveys that do not completely cover the impacted area. You can get a broad idea of where browntail moth is in Maine from our interactive map, just updated with 2023 winter web surveys. To understand what browntail moth is up to in a specific area, take a look at host plants for webs and signs of caterpillar activity.

Browntail Moth Interactive Map

Citizen Science Survey Protocol

Aerial Detection Survey Maps +

Winter Web Survey Maps +

For Towns and Organizations

Pruning browntail moth webs.

Focus management on populations that will directly impact people, pets and livestock or pose a high risk of contributing to spread.

Hire professional help to treat webs out of reach or near hazards on the property you own or manage. Line up help during fall or winter.

Social Media Toolkit +

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Learn how to safely remove and destroy browntail moth winter webs from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry at  #KnockOutBTM

To avoid encounters with the fuzzy caterpillars, remove and destroy browntail moth webs by April. Learn how from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry at  #KnockOutBTM

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#KnockOutBrowntail Business Challenge +

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Entomologists with the Maine Forest Service in the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) have teamed up with the University of Maine to track the spread and investigate the causes of the outbreak and evaluate management strategies for this daunting pest.