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Browntail Moth caterpillars proliferate throughout Maine. The insect feeds on the leaves of many common hardwood trees and shrubs in Town.


It has tiny barbed hairs that can cause a skin rash and respiratory difficulties, which can last anywhere from a few hours to several weeks. The tiny hairs break off the caterpillars and are everywhere in infested areas; on trees, lawns, gardens, decks, picnic tables, and in the air. The hairs can remain toxic for up to three years. Wind or activities like mowing or leaf blowing can stir up the hairs and cause a reaction for months, even after the caterpillars become moths.


In spring and as soon as the earliest leaf buds open, Browntail Moth caterpillars feed on the leaves of many hardwood trees and shrubs including Oak, apple, crabapple, cherry, hawthorn, shadbush, serviceberry, and rugosa rose. Infestations can cause reduced growth and branch dieback. After a couple of years at high population levels, Browntail Moth caterpillars can cause the trees and shrubs to die.

The caterpillars then form filmy cocoons between leaves on trees, under eaves, picnic tables, and decks. Adult moths emerge from their cocoons in late July and fly to the tops of trees to remain over the winter months. In the next spring, the process begins again.




The Town of Yarmouth does not spray insecticides on private or public lands for any insects— including Ticks, Mosquitos, or Browntail Moth Caterpillars. So residents and visitors should take steps to protect themselves. Options include:


● Learn to identify the Browntail Moth caterpillar: it is dark brown with a broken white stripe on each side and two conspicuous red spots on the back. It typically grows to 1.5 inches in length. In July and August, the Browntail Moth has snow-white wings and a tuft of dark brown hair on the tip of the abdomen.

● Wear long sleeves, pants, hats, and gloves in affected areas.

● Wash clothes and body after leaving infected areas.

● If you are at risk of respiratory complications, please make additional considerations.

● Avoid leaf piles and areas that have not been raked or blown.

● Contact your physician if you have contracted a severe rash.

Maine Forest Service: (207) 287-2431

Maine Board of Pesticides Control: (207) 287-2731

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