Adult Browntail Moths: What Maine Residents Need To Know

July 23, 2021

Adult browntail moths are on the move in Maine

Does your home or business look like either of the images below? If so, you’re not alone! After spending the last few months terrorizing communities throughout Maine, browntail moth caterpillars are in the process of transforming into big, white moths. While residents can enjoy the respite from the nasty rashes caused by their toxic hairs and take a breather from worrying about attacks on their trees, we must warn against the next phase- infestations of browntail moths. Yes, don’t be surprised to find these large moths amassing near an exterior light or even taking over a whole side of your house or building in the coming days (if they haven’t already).

adult browntail moths on house in belgrade maine hundreds of adult browntail moths near exterior light in maine

What do browntail moths look like?

Adult browntail moths are large moths (they have a wingspan just under two inches) with snow white wings and small tufts of brown hair that peak out from under their wings when at rest. When they lift their wings you can see more brown. 


adult browntail moth on window screen in durham maine brown body of browntail moth

They're not the only white moth in Maine

The gypsy moth, or rather the female of the species, is another white moth in Maine and one that we’ve been getting a lot of calls about lately (especially from homeowners in Bethel, Gilead, and surrounding areas). If you’re seeing white moths but aren’t sure what they are, take a look at their wings. For the most part adult BTMs have solid white wings while female gypsy moths are off-white in coloring and have dark markings. Male gypsy moths are smaller, darker brown, and have black markings.

gypsy moths are another white moth in maine

Adult browntail moths are not dangerous

Unlike their caterpillar form, adult browntail moths do not have toxic hairs and the only way you might experience a rash after a chance encounter with them is if they just emerged from a cocoon that had toxic hairs still on it and have carried a few on their bodies. Adult BTMS do not inflict damage to trees either.

The problem with adult browntail moths

Though they are not a threat like BTM caterpillars, these moths are still a significant problem, or rather a problem in the making. Once adult moths emerge from their cocoons, they will start laying eggs. Eggs that caterpillars emerge from in the spring. You can see where we are going with this.

How to get rid of browntail moths

In Maine, the battle against browntail moths is an ongoing one and requires your participation. If you see adult moths on your property, we highly recommend killing them. At Pine State Pest Solutions, we do offer knockdown treatments that consist of spraying a material that, when moths come into contact with it, will result in their elimination. Unfortunately, because these moths hatch in cycles and erratic ones at that, you may find another hatching of BTMs on your house or structure before long.

Adult browntail moth prevention tips

The best way to prevent adult browntail moths from gathering on your home or business is to eliminate the conditions that attract them – namely light sources. While most of us leave the porch light on all night long, it’s actually a bad idea in relation to pest prevention. Light attracts browntail moths and really moths in general as well as other bugs that are out and about at night. By reducing or eliminating exterior lighting when these moths are most active (10 PM - 2AM) or all night long, you may be able to avoid an infestation like the ones pictured above. 


Don’t forget to destroy winter webs

In 2021, overwintering browntail moth webs were found in every single Maine county with the highest populations in Androscoggin, Cumberland, Kennebec, Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, and Waldo counties. As late fall approaches, you’re likely to start noticing these webs in host trees on your property. They can be distinguished from other types of webs by the way they construct their webs on the tips of tree branches. If you can safely reach and remove nests, we recommend doing so. You should also burn them (after you’ve secured your burn permit) or soak them in soapy water.

browntail moths in maine build webs at the tips of branches

Browntail moth caterpillar treatments

At Pine State Pest Solutions, we know how to deal with browntail moth caterpillars. We’ve spent that last couple of months helping property owners from Kittery to Northport get rid of browntail moth caterpillars and are ready to help you when the time comes.

Our BTM caterpillar control services are designed to stop browntail moth caterpillars from taking over before they even had a chance to grow their toxic hairs. While the treatment we recommend depends on your situation, it could include:

  • Tree micro injections
  • Tree spraying
  • Vehicle mounted spraying for properties with an acre or more of trees

If you’re considering hiring a pest control company that specializes in browntail moth control to help you get a handle on these hazardous pests, don’t wait until it’s too late. Because they are such a serious problem throughout our Maine service area, our schedule fills up fast. To make sure you’re on the books, give us a call in February or March!

Contact us today!

Tags: moths and light  |  moths on house

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