Browntail moth presentation Jan. 24 in Wiscasset

Posted:  Monday, January 22, 2018 - 8:00am
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If you haven't heard about browntail moth — or you dread the end of winter because you see those browntail moth nests in the tops of your trees — come learn the latest information about the pest at a presentation by Maine Forest Service District Forester Morten Moesswilde on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 6 p.m., in the Wiscasset Municipal Building. Moesswilde will discuss identification and management of browntail moth, which has infiltrated many midcoast Maine communities including Wiscasset.

Browntail moth is an invasive insect pest that can cause skin rashes and respiratory distress in people due to toxic hairs found on the caterpillars and in cocoons. The hairs can persist in the environment and remain toxic for up to three years. They are most harmful where they are found on fallen leaves, lawns, patios, and other surfaces around homes. The hairs can become airborne again due to mowing, raking, or removing coverings from boats, sheds, etc.

The current outbreak is most severe in five towns around Brunswick. However, browntail moth webs have been found in Sagadahoc, Cumberland, Androscoggin, Kennebec, Lincoln, and, most recently, at sites in Waldo and Knox counties. Last summer, the moth was a significant nuisance in Wiscasset. Browntail moth larvae and cocoons can be transported by vehicles during the summer.

Overwintering webs found on the ends of oak, pear, apple, cherry, and crabapple trees can be safely pruned during the winter, before April, when leaves come out. Removing and destroying these webs will reduce the likelihood of re-infestation. After leaf-out, the caterpillars and cocoons will begin to release toxic hairs and are much more difficult and costly to control safely.

Control measures to identify, remove, and destroy webs now will help limit the spread of this pest. Many other insects that form webs are beneficial for wildlife and/or cause only limited damage to trees, so proper identification of the browntail moth webs is important.

Moesswilde’s talk will focus on basic biology, identification, history, and control of webs. The talk at the Wiscasset Municipal Building is co-sponsored by the Wiscasset Conservation Commission. It is free and open to the public.

More information about browntail moth can be found at to the Maine Forest Service website, http://www.maine.gov/dacf/mfs/forest_health/invasive_threats/browntail_moth_info.htm.  For questions regarding the talk or other concerns regarding trees and forests, contact District Forester Morten Moesswilde at morten.moesswilde@maine.gov, or 441.2895.