Update on the Browntail Moth, a Toxic Insect Pest

This cute little guy is BAD NEWS.

Browntail moth is an invasive forest pest that continues to expand its range in Maine bringing with it human health impacts. Browntail moth is now present in Waldo County and other areas of the Midcoast. 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 kills valued trees and shrubs.  While feeding damage may cause some concern,  the primary concern is the impact on humans from the  browntail moth is the result of contact with poisonous hairs found on the caterpillars.  Contact of these hairs with human skin causes a rash similar to poison ivy that can be severe on some individuals, and the hairs can cause breathing problems.  Late winter is an ideal time to control it by clipping and destroying its winter webs.

Skin rash from browntail moth

See the Maine Forest Service website for an overview of its biology, history in Maine and updates on current browntail range/ areas at risk. MFS also has information about management options and ways to mitigate human health impacts. If you think you have browntail moth infestation on your property in Waldo County, please inform the District or the Maine Forest Service.