Browntail Moth Response
UPDATE: January 6, 2022
The City of Bangor has initiated the browntail moth winter operations plan. This includes a survey to determine the extent of the browntail moth infestation on public property, which will be used to guide our winter web clipping efforts. Once the survey is completed the Public Works and Parks & Recreation departments will send out teams to start clipping browntail moth winter webs in parks, roadsides, and other public properties.
Winter web clipping is a very impactful way to limit the spread of the browntail moth. The larvae are very small at this stage, they have not begun to molt, and their webs are tightly woven, which keeps all the caterpillars contained inside. Each web contains up to 400 caterpillars, each having the ability to massively defoliate trees, pupating into moth form, and laying up to 400 more eggs. Each web clipped could potentially prevent up to 160,000 more caterpillars from munching on our trees next year!
Residents can do this same thing to protect their own property. We encourage residents to look at trees on their own land to see if there are winter webs present. The Maine Forest Service (MFS) created a nice video to help you identify the winter webs, clip them, and dispose of them. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6VmwsXE3lg&t=4s [embed?]
If you are unable to remove winter webs yourself and would like assistance, MFS has assembled a list of State of Maine licensed arborists here, https://www.maine.gov/dacf/mfs/forest_health/documents/arborists_prune_btm_webs.pdf
If you would like to speak to a State of Maine licensed pesticide applicator about your browntail moth problem, MFS has assembled a list of companies who are willing to treat for browntail moth here, https://www.maine.gov/dacf/mfs/forest_health/invasive_threats/browntail_moth_pesticide_applicator_info.htm
Maine Forest Service also has a page that helps you identify browntail moth winter webs versus abandoned webs of the fall webworm or eastern tent caterpillar. https://www.maine.gov/dacf/mfs/forest_health/insects/browntail_moth_id_winter_nests.htm
Their browntail moth webpage has a wealth of information and will be a great resource if you want additional information about the browntail moth and other methods of management. https://www.maine.gov/dacf/mfs/forest_health/invasive_threats/browntail_moth_info.htm
Lastly, we also ask that residents report their winter web sightings through the city’s service request page, https://bangormaine.gov/311/request/add . By reporting the location of winter webs under the “Browntail Moth Reporting” type of issue, you will help us track the extent of their spread and aid in future planning. Remember, the city is unable to provide assistance to residents in removing winter webs on private property but the information regarding their location is still helpful.
UPDATE: July 12, 2021
Residents of Bangor have been diligently reporting the caterpillar, at first, and now the adult moths. Our infestation map is starting to come together, you can view that below. Thank you to everyone who has participated in reporting. You can file your own report by clicking here.
Recent rains have done a great job washing toxic Browntail moth hairs into the soil where they are much less likely to cause allergic reactions in residents (unless you are actively digging in the soil). Forecasted rain this week will continue to reduce the negative impact of these hairs. We are seeing the adult moths (pictured below) emerging from cocoons in large numbers and gathering near bright lights at night. The Maine Forest Service is recommending that people do not try to manage Browntail moths in the adult moth stage. However, they do recommend that people turn off unnecessary outside lights between 9:00 pm and 12:00 am (midnight) to avoid attracting them to your property. If they are not being attracted to your property then the chances of them laying eggs is decreased. The good news is that the hairs of the adult moth are not toxic, so they are not contributing to additional outbreaks of rash and itching.
These moths were found in Bangor on July 8.
Unfortunately there is not a lot we (you or the City of Bangor) can do to control this year’s population. The next step, and a very important step, in controlling next year’s population will be the winter nest snipping. These nests are very visible, each nest snipped removes 200-400 caterpillars (and literally billions of toxic hairs) from the 2022 lifecycle, and snipping causes no harm to the tree, to beneficial insects, to wildlife, or to people. As these winter nests appear we will be sharing more information about identification and how you can help prevent the spread on your own property.
Browntail Moth - Home and Garden IPM from Cooperative Extension - University of Maine Cooperative Extension
Browntail Moth Euproctis chrysorrhoea : Forest Health & Monitoring: Bureau of Forestry: Maine DACF
June 4, 2021:
(Photo credit: Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry)
The City of Bangor is experiencing a marked increase in the number of complaints regarding Browntail Moth exposure. This spring, many residents suffered from direct exposure to caterpillar hair and indirect exposure from windblown hairs.
The City has developed a plan to address the increase in Browntail Moth activity that includes a public information campaign, tracking of locations where nests are seen, a clipping program to remove winter nests, and determining the appropriate methods to treat and target impacted foliage.
(Photo credit: Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry)
The browntail moth is an invasive species normally found on the coast of Maine and Cape Cod, but in 2021 the winter webs were discovered in all 16 Maine counties. This moth is an insect of both forest and human health concern.
Caterpillars are active from April to late June. Hairs remain toxic throughout the summer but get washed into the soil and are less of a problem over time.
The browntail moth caterpillar has tiny poisonous hairs that cause dermatitis similar to poison ivy on sensitive individuals. People may develop dermatitis from direct contact with the caterpillar or indirectly from contact with airborne hairs.
The hairs become airborne from either being dislodged from the living or dead caterpillar or they come from cast skins with the caterpillar molts. Most people affected by the hairs develop a localized rash that will last for a few hours up to
several days but on some sensitive individuals the rash can be severe and last for several weeks. The rash results from both a chemical reaction to a toxin in the hairs and a physical irritation as the barbed hairs become embedded in the skin.
What are the symptoms of browntail moth toxin exposure?
A skin rash on any part of your body that was exposed. The rash tends to be red, bumpy, and itchy.
Respiratory issues such as breathing difficulty can occur if the browntail moth hairs are inhaled.
If you are having trouble breathing, swallowing, or swelling of your mouth, tongue, or throat, call 9-1-1.
How do I treat the rash?
According to the Maine CDC, mild rashes can be treated at home with:
A cool bath with baking soda or Aveeno Oatmeal Bath
Hydrocortisone cream, such as Cortaid, applied sparingly to the itchiest areas
Calamine or caladryl lotion
If home remedies are not working, see your healthcare provider. There are medications that your healthcare provider might recommend.
Be careful not to apply any creams or lotions to places where young children may rub them into their eyes or mouth.
Is the rash contagious?
You cannot "catch" the rash from another person like you can a cold. The hairs need to come in contact with your skin, mouth, throat, or respiratory tract for symptoms to appear.
As part of the City's informational campaign, signage like this will be placed in City parks and other public properties:
Learn more about the Browntail Moth by visiting the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry's website.
Maine CDC Browntail Moth fact sheet