Healthy Options 4/5/23: Browntail Moths & other invasive insect species

Host/Producer: Rhonda Feiman
Co-Producer: Petra Hall

Healthy Options: For Well-being & Being Well

This month:

1. What’s different this year about where we might find browntail moths (BTM),
and how has the weather affected their population so far this year?
2. Which areas of Maine have seen more of the BTM nests this year, and which are seeing less?
3. What is the life cycle of the browntail moth?
4. How do we identify BTM nests, the caterpillars, and the moths?
5. What are all the ways that we can manage these nests when we see them, and how do we safely get rid of the caterpillars? Would stepping on them and squishing them (!) be of any benefit?
6. What are the toxic parts of the caterpillars and why should the toxic hairs not come in contact with clothing or skin?
7. What does a BTM caterpillar rash look like?
8. What is the best way to take care of trees that have BTM nests & caterpillars?
9. Which trees are more susceptible to the nests? Do trees recover after a BTM infestation?
10. How do you clip nests and when is the best time to do so? What do you do with the nests after they are clipped? Is it enough to place clipped nests in soapy water to dispose of them?
11. Why is it crucial to not leave the nests on the ground? Why shouldn’t you mow nests which may be on the ground? Why mow when the grass is damp/wet?
12. How would you treat trees where the nests are so high we cannot reach them? When should you consider hiring a licensed arborist to clip nests?
13. Why would people consider using chemicals/toxins on the trees, rather than cutting off the nests within reach, hiring an arborist, or even using drones to clip them?
14. Why should we check under the eaves of houses, under porches, and even in wheel wells of our cars, when we have been in an area with the caterpillars?
15. What other caterpillars and moths can be confused with BTM? Why should we take care to identify BTM versus other beneficial insects?
16. Is it helpful to turn off lights at night from late June through August when the adult moths are congregating and “looking for love”?
17. Why are using bug zappers detrimental?

Tom Schmeelk, Maine Forest Service entomologist

Additional Information:
“Knock Out Browntail” with info & links on the Maine Forest website.
YouTube video: Tom Schmeelk illustrates browntail moth overwintering webs, offers tips for identification, and gives instructions for removal and destruction of webs within reach from the ground.

About the host:
Rhonda Feiman is a nationally-certified, licensed acupuncturist practicing in Belfast, Maine since 1993. She primarily practices Toyohari Japanese acupuncture, using gentle and powerful non-insertion needle techniques, and also utilizes Chinese acupuncture and herbology. In addition, Rhonda is a practitioner of Qi Gong and an instructor of Tai Chi Chuan in the Yang Family tradition.