Late last week, we saw the first of adult browntail moth and have made more observations of adult emergence over the weekend. This marks the beginning of a shift in tactics to mitigate attracting moths to your dooryard by keeping unnecessary outdoor lights off until the beginning of August.
Around the same time that browntail moths start showing up on lampposts, posts abound on social media encouraging the use of a light trap to “eradicate” the brown tail moth. It is often asked if light traps or bug zappers are effective at controlling adult moths, and the answer is a resounding no. Why?
- Bright lights will draw in more brown tail moth dispersing from other areas.
- People who have tried this method report that they notice more brown tail moth winter webs in their trees, particularly those around the lights, the following winter.
- Many parasitic flies and wasps that attack brown tail moths are also drawn to light, reducing their impacts on browntail moth populations, not to mention other non-target effects.
- Females attracted by lights generally hang out on the host foliage nearby, with more males drawn directly to the light.
Unfortunately, the females are crucial in keeping the population levels high, so killing just the males won’t make a dent in the population, especially in heavily impacted areas. We recommend keeping unnecessary outside lights off between 9:00 PM and midnight until the beginning of August to avoid attracting more brown tail moths to your yard.
Browntail Moth Toxicity
People often ask if the adult moths have the same toxic hairs as the caterpillars. The answer is no. The hairs on the abdomens of the adult moths are not hollow and filled with the toxin, nor are they barbed. That being said, some people can experience irritation from exposure to the moths. Keep in mind that many moth species in their adult and larval forms have hairs that can cause a reaction in sensitive individuals.
Even though we are starting to see adults, both recently vacated and still inhabited pupal cocoons are still present.
The coarse silk cocoons surrounding the pupae contain the last cast skin of the caterpillar, or caterpillars, and are full of toxic hairs. Many people become exposed to the hairs through encounters with the cocoons. Cocoons may be found on buildings, vehicles/ trailers, other outdoor equipment, plant stems, branches, and foliage. To prevent brown tail moth from hitching a ride, check vehicles, trailers, and other materials for cocoons or adult moths. If you believe you have an infestation, call Tree Keepers, your local expert in tree health and tree pest control!
Treating Browntail Moth Rash
Last year, the infestation was the worst in the state’s history, “This year, the Maine Forest Service predicts encounters with the moths and their hairs to be as bad or worse than 2021”.
Maine residents scrambled to concoct their own homemade remedies to combat the irritation. In the midst of the scramble, this up-and-coming Maine skincare brand using a protein found in lobsters an ingredient that is really good at repairing the skin barrier. Two recent University of Maine graduates, stumbled into a solution to bring relief to people struggling for relief!
Amber Boutiette and Patrick Breeding, two recent University of Maine graduates, started Marin Skincare to bring relief to people struggling with dry, ‘upset’ skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
“Well, we actually use a protein found in lobsters, which is responsible for their ability to pop off and regenerate limbs. It turns out, in the same way it does this, it is really good at repairing the skin barrier. So far, we’ve used it to help tens of thousands with dry, dermatitis-prone skin, starting with me.” said Boutiette.
For Marin, bringing relief to people of Maine and New England has come full circle.
“It’s so cool that we’re able to take this protein, a natural, upcycled byproduct of our iconic lobster fishery, and use it to help everyday people in Maine, New England and beyond”