March 03, 2021
Browntail moths don’t disappear as the weather turns colder. In fact, in the early fall months this invasive species is busy creating nests for their larvae to survive during the winter months—and they’re using your trees as their home.
What is an overwintering nest? An overwintering nest is a thick, silk web that’s attached to twigs and tree branches. These nests provide a safe place for larvae (caterpillars) to weather the winter months.
What do overwintering nests of Browntail moths look like? Overwintering nests are webs of white silk that are spun tightly around twigs and tree branches. The silk shines in the sunlight and resemble “stubborn leaves,” or a group of leaves that didn’t fall during autumn. Since these nests can look similar to other non-invasive species, it’s best to have a professional identify any potential nests near your home.
What is happening inside them? Inside these white nests are caterpillars, or browntail moths in their larvae phase. Each nest can contain anywhere from 25-400 caterpillars! If left undisturbed, these caterpillars will emerge in spring and feed off the tree’s leaves while growing into their adult phase (moths).
Why are browntail moth nests in my yard a bad thing? Browntail moths feed off the leaves from a wide range of trees and shrubs on your property. They prefer oak, apple, crabapple, pear, birch, cherry and other hardwood trees. Once they start eating these leaves, they can do irreparable harm to the growth of your trees.
After weeks of constant feeding, full grown browntail moth caterpillars prepare to build a cocoon and shed their toxic, orange hairs which are responsible for uncomfortable rashes and respiratory issues for humans. Once shed, the hairs become airborne and will settle on the ground and in leaf litter around your property, as well as on top of water which can cling to swimmers.
The hairs shed from the mature browntail moth caterpillar remain toxic for up to three years and have no place being near your home and family.
When should I have these nests removed? With the tree branches bare, winter is the ideal time to locate and identify these nests in order to have a prevention plan in place before spring.
Browntail moth caterpillars don’t have their toxic hairs when they emerge from the overwintering nest, but it only takes a few weeks of constant feeding until the irritating hairs start to grow. This short amount of time—before they’ve emerged and the few short weeks directly after—is the best time to schedule treatment.
It is possible to eliminate the caterpillars after this short window, however, the toxic hair will remain on your property and could cause future discomfort to your family. While it could reduce the number of moths and potential nests the next year, if you think you have browntail moth nests on your property it's best to act sooner rather than later.
To preserve the health of the trees and shrubs on your property, as well as the health of your family, have any potential browntail moth nests properly identified by a professional. By eliminating these nests from your backyard now, you’re preventing a potential infestation in the spring and early summer months.
Pine State Pest Solutions provides free estimates and affordable treatment plans for pest control and prevention to eliminate infestations and bring you peace of mind. Contact us today.