Browntail Moth













General Information:

The browntail moth is an insect of forest and human health concern that was accidentally introduced into Somerville, Massachusetts from Europe in 1897. By 1913, the insect had spread to all of the New England states and New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Since that time, populations of this pest slowly decreased due to natural controls until the 1960s, when the browntail moth was limited to Cape Cod and a few islands off the Maine coast in Casco Bay. Browntail moth populations are again building in Maine and are found in patches along the coast and up to 60 miles inland from the western Maine border to the New Brunswick border, with the greatest concentrations in mid-coastal Maine and the capitol region.

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 a reduction of growth and occasional mortality of valued trees and shrubs.

While feeding damage may cause some concern, the primary impact on humans by browntail moth results from contact with poisonous hairs produced by the caterpillars. Microscopic, toxic hairs break off the caterpillars and can be airborne or settled on surfaces in browntail moth infested areas. Sensitive individuals who encounter the hairs may develop a skin rash similar to poison ivy and/or trouble breathing. Symptoms can last anywhere from a few hours to several weeks and can be severe in some individuals.                                                             

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State Resources:

For more information about Browntail Moths, click on the links below:

Maine CDC Browntail Moth

Maine Forest Service Browntail Moth (Updated regularly)


“Browntail Moth in Maine and What You Should Know"

Presentation By Tom Schmeelk, Entomologist
Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry
“Browntail moth is a non-native species that poses human health risks as well as concerns
for forest health. This species is currently experiencing a population boom in Maine.
This presentation will cover lifecycle, history, current situation
and what to look for as well as management and mitigation strategies.”

Click here to view the presentation: