Home of the brown-tail moth larvae
The brown-tail moth (Euproctis chrysorrhoea) is a moth of the family Erebidae. It is native to Europe, neighboring countries in Asia, and the north coast of Africa.
The life cycle of the moth is atypical, in that it spends approximately nine months (August to April) as larvae (caterpillars). Larvae are covered in hairs. Two red spots on the back, toward the tail, distinguish these species from other similarly hairy moth larvae.
Hairs from the caterpillars are toxic for humans, causing an itchy rash of up to weeks' duration due to mechanical and chemical irritation. Direct contact with larvae is not necessary, as the hairs are shed and can become windblown. Toxins in the hairs remain potent for up to three years. Outdoor activities such as mowing a lawn or raking leaves in the fall can cause exposure.
In Europe, there are multiple parasitic and predator species, yet there is still a history of population outbreaks. With less natural enemies and declining temperatures during the winter, outbreaks like this will be more common.
- NRC | May 27, 2018