February 2022 has been recognized by the Maine Forest Service as Browntail Moth Awareness Month in Maine to encourage people to take advantage of the dormant season of the insect and join together to reduce impacts from browntail moth.

BTM populations in Maine have been in an outbreak phase since 2015 and the MFS says the pest cannot be eradicated. Most areas of Maine, especially settled areas with significant host tree populations such as oak, apple, crabapple, pear, birch, cherry, or other hardwoods, are at risk of infestation by the caterpillars. While long-lasting tree defoliation and branch dieback are major concerns, BTM’s microscopic, toxic hairs can cause trouble breathing and skin irritation similar to poison ivy from a few hours up to several weeks.

The Maine Forest Service’s Forest Health and Monitoring Division coordinates within state government, local communities, and directly with citizens to respond to this issue. The MFS says winter is the best time to clip and destroy BTM winter webs within reach or hire licensed arborists or pesticide applicators to reduce out-of-reach populations.

Comprehensive Browntail Moth information and tools compiled by MFS; Board of Pesticides Control; Maine Center for Disease Control; the University of Maine and other partners, as well as research, infestation tracking, FAQs, and educational resources for communities, municipalities, businesses, and healthcare providers, are available at maine.gov/dacf/knockoutbtm.