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Posted on: April 13, 2018

Browntail Moth Discovered in Portland

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The City’s Forestry Management crew recently discovered Browntail Moth webs on the mainland in Portland. This pest has been active just north and east of Portland for a number of years, mostly from Falmouth to the Bath/Brunswick areas and Casco Bay Islands. Residents on Cliff Island have been actively clipping and removing the webs for a couple of years.

The biggest issue for this pest are the poisonous hairs that can cause a rash or respiratory problems. Recently, the City’s Forestry arborists noticed the BTM webs, which are located at the ends of branches in what look like tiny shrink-wrapped webs, on Munjoy Hill, East Deering and Deering Oaks park. The favorite hosts for this pest include Hawthorn, Amelanchier, Apple and Oak trees.  

“Levels in Portland are in the low to trace numbers at this time,” said Jeff Tarling, the City’s Arborist. “We urge residents to remove webs by clipping before the foliage comes out in May. Any clipped webs can be placed in a plastic bag and included with trash collection.”  

Residents should be aware that Browntail Moth caterpillars have two distinctive red dots unlike the more common Eastern Tent Caterpillar that can hatch around the same time and nest in the lower branches. (See here for more detail.) 

Portland residents on the mainland and Portland's Casco Bay Islands - Cushing, Peaks, Little & Great Diamond and Cliff - can contact the Portland Parks & Recreation office to report activity. Levels are low enough this year that no control programs are planned, but it is important to monitor this pest and to review information from the Maine Forest Service and the Maine CDC.

This is not the first Browntail Moth infestation to effect Portland and the State of Maine, the first outbreak was reported in 1906 and has returned a number of times including the 1990s when the pest mostly affected the Casco Bay Islands. A natural fungus that occurs in the soil is the best long term control. We can expect the Browntail Moth larvae to be active once temps warm up and foliage is available to feed on, usually early to mid May.  

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