Through mid-April is the time to eliminate browntail caterpillars

Maine entomologists urge residents to attack brown tailed moth nests, now

Mon, 12/02/2019 - 5:15pm

AUGUSTA  —Entomologists from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry said now is the best time to remove browntail caterpillars from trees. Browntail caterpillars cause a poison ivy-like rash and they are affecting a broad swath of Maine, according to a news release from the state agency.

Contact with this caterpillar's hairs can cause severe physical reactions.

Browntail caterpillars spend the winter webbed in silken wrapped leaves on the tips of hardwood branches, especially oak and fruit trees. Now through mid-April is when to look for the bright white silk tying a few leaves to the tips of oak and fruit tree branches.

Clip the web out and destroy it by dropping it in a bucket of soapy water and soaking it overnight; do not leave it on the ground.

The caterpillars become active as soon as warmer weather arrives, so do this task as soon as possible.

Clip webs before mid-April because of the increased risk of  toxic hair exposure.

Browntail caterpillar webs are found in Maine from the New Hampshire border to Deer Isle, and inland to Raymond, Turner, Rome, Smithfield, Burnham and Eddington. The moths have been seen as far west to Kingfield, north to Ashland and east to Topsfield, on the New Brunswick border.

For more than 100 years, Maine people have known that "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," when it comes to browntail moths.

Learn how to recognize browntail moth webs by visiting the websites below, then go and check your trees for their presence. If you find them and can reach them, clip and destroy them. If they are out of reach, now is the time to call and schedule professional help.

Survey a public space in your town: If you think you have 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 can prune webs out of your reach and a list of licensed pesticide applicators can be found at

For information, call 211 (or 1-866-811-5695) or text your zip code to 898-211.