As most of you know the Browntail Moth infestation increased its footprint and severity in 2019. Oak trees and fruit trees around the lake and pond and river have been completely defoliated and most everyone I have talked to has “the rash”. I talked to Tom Schmeelk at Maine’s Forest Service this week. He said in their study plots in Jefferson and Whitefield the caterpillars are starting to pupate. He cautioned that the cocoons are chock full of the toxic hairs as many times multiple caterpillars pupate in the same cocoon. On a positive note he also said that they were seeing many caterpillars being killed by fungus. He expects that some pockets of the population will collapse because of this.
Both the towns of Camden and Lincolnville are gathering information and looking for tools to deal with the infestation moving forward.
If you have a Brown-Tail Caterpillar infestation with cocoons:
What to do: Use caution – cocoons are full of hairs THAT CAN CAUSE A RASH. Remember these hairs will persist until next year or longer.
If you want to remove the cocoons (different from the overwintering webs):
- Wear protective clothing
- Wet down cocoons before removing them
Pressure wash or scrape cocoons off structures or clip out of favorite plants:
- Put a drop cloth under area to collect them
- Let soak overnight in soapy water and compost or dispose in trash
Browntail caterpillars wander and form their cocoons anywhere in the area. Favorite places are:
- Under the eaves on a building, on the underside of anything
- In the leaves of any plant
If you have specific questions you can call or text 211 to talk to a state expert. In addition here is a link to the state’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) https://www.maine.gov/dacf/mfs/forest_health/invasive_threats/browntail_moth_faqs.htm