BROWNTAIL moth winter web.

BROWNTAIL moth winter web.


Browntail caterpillars are expected to be crawling in full force this spring and summer. Experts say now is the time to eradicate them by cutting their nests from trees while they are accessible.

Browntail caterpillars cause a rash like poison ivy and they are spreading across more and more of Maine. Contact with caterpillar hairs can cause severe reactions for some individuals.

Clipping the nests

Entomologists from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry say the caterpillars spend the winter webbed in silken-wrapped leaves on the tips of branches of oak and apple trees.

“NOW is the time to look for the bright white silk tying a few leaves to the TIPS of your apple, crab apple, plum and oak tree branches,” a DACF press release states. “If you see a web CLIP IT OUT and destroy the web by dropping it in a bucket of soapy water, do not just leave it on the ground.”

According to the DACF, browntail caterpillar webs can be found regularly from the New Hampshire border to Waldoboro, and inland to Turner and Waterville. They are worst along the coast from Falmouth to Bristol. The moths have been seen all the way to Kingfield, Millinocket and Topsfield on the New Brunswick border.

A video showing how to clip the webs and a list of arborists who could prune webs can be found on the Maine Forest Service website’s browntail moth page, which can be found by searching

Community discussions

Many local communities have been discussing how to address the browntail moth, which has been particularly active in the Midcoast.

There will be a free panel presentation on the browntail moth and its effects on Feb. 22 from 6-7:30 p.m. at Patten Free Library in Bath.

According to the event announcement, not only can the browntail moth’s microscopic hairs cause rashes and respiratory problems in humans, it is also a destructive invasive insect that can defoliate a tree just as buds are opening in the spring.

Speakers at the Feb. 22 event include Bath arborist Kyle Rosenberg, UMaine Extension staff member Lynne Holland, and a representative from the medical community. There will be time for questions from the audience.

Sponsors are the city of Bath, Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, Maine Board of Pesticides Control and UMaine Extension. For more information or to request a disability accommodation, email [email protected] or call (207) 353-5550.

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