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These things suck in a big way. Here it is in the middle of the winter and I'm making a webpage to chronical the ensuing, year-long battle with these bugs from hell. The state of Maine suggests:

"While mowing, raking, weed-whacking, wear coveralls (tightly sealed at neck, wrist, and ankles), respirator, goggles, and gloves."

 

 

Let me introduce you to the Browntail Moth caterpillar. 

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So here we are, in Freeport Maine. Just after XMAS 2018 and the Browntail Moth nests are taunting me with the 2019 havoc to come.

Maine browntail moths - bugs from hell

 

The first thing to do is to grab your favorite child and apply banding and sticky Tanglefoot to keep the fallen, newly-born caterpillars from making back up the tree in the late spring 

Browntail moth using tanglefoot

 

Zooming up for a close look at the nests with a drone

 

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Description and Life History

rashThe browntail moth produces one generation a year. It has four life stages; egg, larval, pupal, and adult. The larval stage lasts for nine months, from August through June. In the fall, colonies of larvae build winter webs in trees constructed from a single leaf wrapped tightly with large amounts of white silk. A colony consists of 25 to 400 or more larvae. The larvae overwinter within two to four inch long winter webs situated far out on branch tips. Webs are found most often on red oak or apple trees.

 

Aside: Fall webworm nests, often confused with the browntail moth winter webs, are loose, further in on the branches and more often found in ash trees. Eastern tent caterpillar tents are found in crotches and forks of apple and cherry tree branches during the spring.

In the spring, as soon as the earliest leaf buds open, the larvae become active and crawl out of their webs to feed on the tender new leaves. They may devour the foliage as fast as it develops. For a time the larvae crawl back into the web at night, but as they become larger they remain out on the leaves. By late June, larvae are full grown. Large larvae, about 1 1/2 inches long, are dark brown, have a broken white stripe on each side of the body and conspicuous, two reddish spots on the posterior end of the back.

These should not be confused with larvae of the eastern tent caterpillar which has a single, solid, white stripe down its back or the gypsy moth which has paired blue and red spots on its back.

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In late June, the larvae spin rough cocoons in which to pupate. Pupal cocoons are full of toxic hairs and should be removed from buildings or trees only with great caution. The pupae develop into moths which emerge from the cocoons in July. The moths have a wingspread of about 1 1/2 inches and are strongly attracted to light. Wings and midsection are pure white while the abdomen (rear part of the body) is brown with a conspicuous tuft of brown hairs at the tip.

After emerging, the females lay eggs in masses on the underside of leaves and cover the eggs with brown hairs from their bodies. Each female lays 200 to 400 eggs. The eggs hatch during August or early in September and the young larvae feed for a short time on the leaves before building their winter webs. This fall feeding does little damage to the trees.

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The challenge ahead - nests start 36ft up, maxing out at 60ft in my trees !
April 2nd 2019

So I bought the tallest tree pruner I could find at Home Depot to attach all the nests in my oaks. Errr, see a problem?

Browntail Moth - Challenges Ahead

 

D-Day - The first of the monsters show themselves
May 18th 2019

Browntail 2019 start

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