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.

When will the caterpillars be active? +

  • The caterpillars are active at two times of the year. In mid-April, they emerge from their winter webs and begin feeding and growing until they reach their maximum size in June.
  • The second batch of caterpillars hatch from their eggs in August and are active until early October when they enter their winter webs to hibernate, emerging the following spring.

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What time of year should I clip overwintering webs? +

  • The Maine Forest Service recommends clipping webs between October and mid-April before caterpillars emerge from winter webs and begin feeding on new leaves.
  • This task is more easily accomplished after the leaves have fallen from the trees as the webs are more visible.

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How can I get rid of webs? +

  • Equipment that can be used includes a pair of hand snips, hand saw, and/or pole pruner, eye protection, clothing to cover skin and gloves.
  • Removing webs only requires snipping out the nest itself rather than the entire limb.
  • Collect nests and burn or soak in soapy water 3-5 days then throw them away.
  • Clipping and destroying webs in the fall and winter can reduce populations.
  • Pesticide applications can provide relief if webs are not within reach. The Maine Forest Service recommends hiring a licensed pesticide applicator for a pesticide application
  • Licensed arborists can be hired to clip webs that are not within reach or are near hazards such as powerlines.
  • A list of contractors willing to do browntail work can be found here:
  • If you plan to hire a contractor, be aware that the demand for services is high. Try to line up services early.

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How do I manage browntail moth webs in tall trees? +

  • Some libraries have sets of pole pruners for loan. You may also be able to rent pole pruners.
  • With care, a stable ladder, such as an orchard ladder or a lift can help in access to higher webs
  • Some trees are too big to practically manage through web clipping, even by professional arborists. Properly applied insecticides can work for population reduction in these trees.
  • The Maine Forest Service maintains a list of licensed arborists providing pruning services that can be found at

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Should I treat the small caterpillars that hatched in August? +

  • Using foliar or injectable pesticides to target the young caterpillars in late summer is very difficult and general not recommended by Maine Forest Service:
    • The skeletonizing of the leaves from the young caterpillars can be hard to see. When applying pesticides, label directions will instruct you to confirm the presence of the pest before application. Do not treat uninfested trees.
    • Browntail caterpillars produce silk and feed underneath it, therefore, pesticides sprayed on leaves or other non-systemic pesticides may not be as effective.
    • Trees in late summer may be less effective at absorbing and spreading injected pesticides throughout the tree's leaves and therefore may not be as effective.

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Is the state doing anything to help landowners/towns who have BTM? +

  • Currently, the state is:
    • supporting and conducting research,
    • tracking infestations,
    • supporting public nuisance declarations and
    • providing education to individuals, municipalities, businesses and others on response options.
  • LD 1929 from the 130 legislative session was signed on May 3, 2022. It allocates one-time funding of $150,000 to be distributed to government or non profit organizations for browntail moth response. Maine Forest Service is currently working with the approved organizations for this Browntail Moth Mitigation Fund. The Division of Procurement Services Grant RFP/RFA page will have updates as soon as they are available.

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All Frequently Asked Questions

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February is Browntail Awareness Month: Here's What You Can Do

Browntail Moth (BTM) caterpillars have been an ongoing nuisance in Maine; causing tree defoliation and rashes in humans. Reduce your chances of encountering this pest on your property by learning how to recognize and remove their winter webs from your trees during February, Browntail Moth Awareness month.

February Checklist - Reduce Browntail Impacts:

  1. Recognize browntail winter webs (see photo below). Check the tips of tree branches for palm-sized (2-5 inches long) webs tied to the leaf stem with white silk. Browntail strongly prefer to make their webs in oak, apple, crabapple, cherry, birch, poplar, shadbush, and rose bushes.
  2. Remove browntail winter webs. Use hand snips or an extendable pole pruner in areas within reach of the ground and away from hazards such as powerlines. Protect your eyes and skin during removal as toxic caterpillars may still be present. After removal, destroy webs:
    • Obtain burn permit and burn them in a contained fire, or
    • Soak them in a bucket of soapy water for a few days before disposing
  3. Recruit professional help when you can't remove winter webs. Licensed arborists or FAA-certified drone operators can help remove webs during the winter. Licensed pesticide applicators may be able to use pesticides on trees with browntail during early spring to reduce browntail populations.
  4. Reach Out if you find browntail in your neighborhood or community. The more neighbors, businesses, and others that work together to respond to browntail, the better the results.

(Left) Browntail webs that have been removed from a tree; note that they are at the tips of branches and are palm-sized. (Right) Browntail web still attached to the tip of a branch; note that on a sunny day, the white silk surrounding the web makes the web easier to find in a tree.

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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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Got questions about browntail moth? 211 is there to answer them.

Know your enemy and your friends. #KnockOutBTM, not silkmoths.

Image credits: DACF except promethea larva BOMONA user Zelenaks, promethea adult BOMANA user JRTindall


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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 +

Click the images below for larger shareable graphics for use on social media.

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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.