Browntailed Moths

If you live on the Maine coast you have heard of browntailed moths. There caterpillars have long hairs that enter our pores and cause a very itchy rash.

To combat the browntail problem, we sprayed. About three years ago the infestation was so bad in our white oaks (we have a few really old ones, oaks are favorites of these pests) that it sounded like it was raining at night, which was actually the sound of caterpillar poop falling to the ground. Awesome. We used permethrin as we were very late deciding to spray, as a general rule we like to be as organic as possible.

Last year we did not spray and it was fine, we clipped and drowned the ones we could reach. This year they were back quite fiercely. We knew we wanted to spray so we used a MOFGA certified spray and down they came. This spray only lasts three days, and it rained the next day so it was probably washed away after that. There were quite a few dead ones, but not the carpet of caterpillars we had after the permethrin spray the first time. The hairs can remain toxic for up to three years, our goal with spraying is to keep the population down in our area, it will not help much with preventing the rash as the hairs are still present. The hairs are most prevalent between April and July, but they are still around after that.

I am still seeing them alive on occasion and I kill them and wash in cold water to keep my pores from opening.

How we handle the situation on a daily basis:

I was a hard core hang clothes on the line person, I no longer do this as the hairs are impossible to see and can be floating in the air and cling to clothes without being noticed.

We wear long sleeves if we are working outside, especially jobs that stir things up like mowing or weed whacking.

We take a cool shower or wash with a cool washcloth when we come inside. This serves two purposes, the cool water closes our pores and the water washes away the tiny hairs. We make sure the boys get wipped down before bed for sure!

It has recently come to my attention that you can remove the hairs with duct tape as well.

I try not to do things outside when it is windy as the hairs blow willey nilley posing more of a risk for inhalation and rash.

These showed up at our house about 7 years ago. I had no idea what they were, T and I were laying outside on the grass one day and one appeared on my shirt. Not thinking anything of it, I flicked it off and went back to reading. That night T and I were in a world of itchy. It was horrible, so much itchier then poison ivy. At the time Midcoast Hospital was the only one with a spray to help the itch. We got some, it worked, but ohhhh the itch in the meantime. The mix has witch hazel, hydrocortisone and benedryl in it I believe. You now have to get a prescription for this, which is a pain if it is the weekend.

I am not crazy about hydrocortisone so I am always looks for natural alternatives.

We found an aloe Vera that my son says works great for him, we bought it at Bath Natural our local health food store, but you can get it on amazon too.


He also found that a spray of lavender oil and water worked to sooth the itch. See my website below to order some lavender oil to try it out for yourself!

My friend Becky makes a fever few cream that is helpful as well, her husband is an arborist and is constantly in contact with these pests. I love that this is locally made!

Be aware if you visit the midcoast region that these little pests are around so take precautions and be prepared with some anti itch possibilities.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s