Browntail Moth caterpillar. Maine CDC photo

February 2022 has been recognized as Browntail Moth Awareness Month in Maine to encourage people to take advantage of the dormant season of the insect and join together to reduce impacts from browntail moth, according to a news release from the Maine Forest Service.

Browntail moth populations in Maine have been in an outbreak phase since 2015 and the pest cannot be eradicated, according to the state. Most areas of Maine, especially settled areas with significant host tree populations such as oak, apple, crabapple, pear, birch, cherry or other hardwoods, are at risk of infestation by the caterpillars. While long-lasting tree defoliation and branch dieback are major concerns, the caterpillar’s microscopic, toxic hairs can cause trouble breathing and skin irritation similar to poison ivy from a few hours up to several weeks.

According to the forest service, winter is the best time to clip and destroy winter webs within reach or hire licensed arborists or pesticide applicators to reduce out-of-reach populations. More information and tools compiled by the forest service, Board of Pesticides Control, Maine Center for Disease Control, the University of Maine and other partners including research, infestation tracking, FAQs and educational resources for communities, municipalities, businesses and healthcare providers, are available on maine.gov/dacf/knockoutbtm.


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