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Update on Browntail Moths: Stats, Resources & Remedies

Browntail Moths

Unless you’re a browntail moth yourself—blissfully wrapped up in your caterpillar cocoon—you’ve heard repeatedly about the browntail moths problem in Maine. According to a recent report by WGME TV in Portland, Maine is currently suffering through the worst infestation of browntail moths in more than 100 years.


For that reason—and because browntail moths can be a particular nuisance to Maine property owners—we thought we would offer you this “Frequently Asked Questions”-style update on the phenomenon.


What Are Browntail Moths and How Can I Identify Them?
When people speak of browntail moths and the problems they cause, they are typically talking about the invasive browntail moth caterpillar. The caterpillars have two obvious red spots on their back, and are covered in toxic, barbed hairs. Growing to about 1.5 inches in length, the browntail moths have snow white wings, tufts of dark brown hair on the tips of their abdomens, and have a wingspan of approximately 1.5 inches.


Where Are They Found in Maine?
Over the past century, browntail moths were most common along the coast of Maine. That changed in 2015, when scientists began to notice the moths becoming more and more invasive across the state. In 2021, the so-called “winter webs” of browntail moths were discovered in all 16 Maine counties. According to a recent report in the Bangor Daily News, Knox, Lincoln, Androscoggin, and Kennebec counties will likely see the brunt of this year’s browntail moth outbreaks.


How Do They Affect People? What Are the Typical Symptoms?
According to the Maine Forest Service, browntail moths can be harmful to humans. Microscopic hairs on the caterpillars can cause “a blistery, oozy rash and respiratory distress.”  The State of Maine’s Division of Disease Surveillance has posted: “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 …. a localized rash [can] last for a few hours up to several days, but on some sensitive individuals the rash can be severe and last for several weeks …. Respiratory distress from inhaling the hairs can be serious.”


What Are the Best Remedies?
Home remedies used to treat various types of rashes can be effective. This can include a cool bath with baking soda, hydrocortisone cream, and calamine lotion. Poison ivy soap, available from such stores as CVS, Walgreen’s, Walmart, and even the Farmer’s Almanac online, can also offer relief.


Important Note:  If you have been exposed to browntail moths and are having trouble breathing or swallowing—or experiencing swelling of your mouth, tongue, or throat—seek medical assistance immediately.


RESOURCES:

If you have questions or need assistance pertaining to browntail moths in Maine, Contact 211 Maine. Here is their contact information:
Dial 211 (or 207-874-2211)
Text your zip code to 898-211
Email: info@211maine.org
Website: https://211maine.org/


Looking to buy your dream home—or sell one—in Maine? We’d love to assist you, and invite you to contact us today.
 

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