Stop Browntail Moth Hitchhikers

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Maine Forest Service

Browntail Caterpillars are Trying to Travel for Free

Now through late June, browntail caterpillars become expert hitchhikers and will wander onto anything they can climb. When they hitch a ride with you, the caterpillars may settle into a new area and cause rash or irritation to people, consume the foliage of nearby trees and shrubs, and mature into egg-laying moths at their new location. Browntail caterpillars are really good at travelling to new places, but you can help stop them.

To prevent spreading these caterpillars to new areas, look for them on your cars, trucks, bikes, boats, ATVs, equipment, and other items before you leave. Use protective measures to avoid skin contact with the hairs when carefully removing any caterpillars (and, later in June, cocoons). Browntail caterpillars pupate into moths in July and the moths are good at hitching rides, too. 


BTM hitchers

Large browntail caterpillars crawling on a boat trailer in Old Town, ME.


How to Stop Browntail Hitchhikers:

  • Avoid parking and storing materials and equipment near trees infested with browntail caterpillars. 
    • Parking lots are often full of good tree hosts for browntail; crab apples, ornamental pear/cherry, birch, and oak trees.
  • Make sure to look for the caterpillars on your items or vehicles before you leave an area.
  • If browntail caterpillars are discovered:
    • Use protective measures to prevent contact with the caterpillar hairs and remove all caterpillars from your vehicle.
    • Eliminate caterpillars by moving them to a plastic bag or container, freeze them or soak them in a bucket of soapy water before disposing of them in the trash. 
  • Educate others on hitchhiker prevention to further prevent their spread to new areas. 

BTM look before you leave

 Skip the Itch – Learn More 

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