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Brown Tail Moth

Subject/Date:  Palermo Community Library will offer pole pruner for loan to Patrons to remove brown tail moth winter webs from their trees beginning February 2, 2019.


CONTACT INFO:       (203)-885-5470 or


During her presentation on brown tail moths at the Palermo Community Library, UMO entomologist Eleanor Groden, PhD, described the health hazards and ecological damage the insects present to Mainers. Brown tail moth is an invasive species introduced from Europe. The moths’ greatest population densities are along the central Maine shore, but they are expanding their range inland and now present a moderate exposure risk to Palermo residents and those in surrounding areas.


The fuzzy hairs on the caterpillar contain a toxin. When the hairs are released, they are dispersed by the wind and settle on decks, picnic tables, line-dried laundry, and the ground surrounding infested trees. When the barbed hairs come in contact with exposed skin, they release the toxin which can cause severe dermatitis. If the hairs are inhaled, they can lead to respiratory distress. The hairs persist in the environment for three years.


Due to the unusual lifecycle of this species, in that it overwinters in the caterpillar form instead of as eggs, it causes defoliation of trees in both the spring and the fall. This double hit of defoliation is a huge stressor for trees and can result in their death. The hardest hit tree species are oak and apple.


The recommended strategy for combatting the moths is to prune their winter webs out of the trees and burn them. Each web houses hundreds of small caterpillars. The Palermo Community Library has purchased a pole pruner which will be available for Patrons to borrow beginning February 2, 2019 to remove brown tail winter webs from their trees. You do not have to be a Palermo resident to become a Patron. The library is located at 2789 Route 3. For more information call 993-6088 or email or visit