Browntail Moth Caterpillar, Maine CDC, Department of Health and Human Services

Division of Disease Surveillance


Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention

A Division of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services

EPI Information

Information for

Browntail Moth (BTM) Frequently Asked Questions


When will the caterpillars be active?

  • The caterpillars are active at two times of the year. In mid-April, they emerge from their winter webs and begin feeding and growing until they reach their maximum size in June.
  • The second batch of caterpillars hatch from their eggs in August and are active until early October when they enter their winter webs to hibernate, emerging the following spring.

  • When do the caterpillars have toxic hairs?

    Caterpillars in their third larval stage begin to develop the toxic hairs, larger caterpillars have more of the toxic hairs.

    What time of year should I clip overwintering webs?

    The Maine Forest Service recommends clipping webs between October and mid-April before caterpillars emerge from winter webs and begin feeding on new leaves.

    What trees do browntail moth caterpillars feed on?

  • Browntail moth caterpillars feed on a wide range of broadleaved trees and shrubs.
  • Preferred trees include oak, apple, crabapple, pear, birch, cherry as well as other hardwoods.

  • When do browntail moth adults fly?

    Adults emerge in July and are flying through August. Peak activity around lights at night is between 10 pm and 12 am.

    Do the browntail moths also have toxic hairs like the caterpillar?

  • There is a possibility of adult moths picking up the toxic hairs from the caterpillar stage as the moths emerge from their cocoons; however, the brown hairs on the abdomen are not the toxic hairs.
  • The caterpillars, pupal cocoons, and shed skins have the toxic hairs that can cause a skin rash.
  • The hairs on the adult moths are not toxic and do not cause a skin rash.

  • What time of year am I most likely to get a rash from the browntail moth caterpillar?

  • The greatest risk for exposure to the toxic caterpillar hairs is between April and July.
  • Caterpillars, shed skins, and pupal cocoons all have toxic hairs that can cause a skin rash.
  • The toxin is stable in the environment for 1-3 years and hairs can become airborne if disturbed, so one should take precautions year-round in heavily infested areas.

  • Who should I contact for more information on browntail moth biology?

    Contact the Maine Forest Service forest entomologists at (207) 287-2431.


    Who can I report browntail moth infestations to?

    Report your detection to the Maine Forest Service if this is an area outside those where the browntail moth is widespread by going to A risk map of heavily infested areas is available at:

    How can I get rid of browntail moth adults?

  • A wet/dry vacuum with a HEPA filter and filled with a few inches of soapy water.
  • Keep outdoor lights off at night during the last week of June to the first week in August

  • How can I get rid of egg masses?

    Egg masses are usually found on the bottom of the leaves of host trees (oak, apple, crabapple, pear, birch, cherry, and other hardwoods). Clip off affected leaves with gloved hands and soak the eggs in soapy water for two days then throw them away.

    How can I get rid of caterpillars?

  • Learn to recognize and avoid skin contact with caterpillars. A key feature is two orange dots on the tail end.
  • Pesticides can be used to control caterpillars. The Maine Forest Service recommends contracting with a licensed pesticide applicator to control browntail moth. Products must be labeled for the site of treatment.
  • Pesticide treatments should be done before the end of May. Later treatments will not reduce human exposures to the toxic hairs.
  • A list of contractors willing to do browntail work can be found here:

  • How can I get rid of caterpillars on the side of my house?

    Use a wet/dry vacuum with a HEPA filter filled with a few inches of soapy water.

    How can I get rid of caterpillar carcasses after pesticide treatment?

  • On a damp morning, use a lawnmower with a bagger to bag clippings and remove from the site. You can also hire a lawn mowing company to do this work.
  • Place a tarp or plastic under trees before treatment with pesticides. After treatment, remove the tarp/ plastic from the site, dispose of caterpillar carcasses and rinse tarp/plastic off outside.

  • How can I get rid of webs?

  • Equipment that can be used includes a pair of hand snips, hand saw, and/or pole pruner, eye protection, clothing to cover skin and gloves.
  • Removing webs only requires snipping out the nest itself rather than the entire limb.
  • Collect nests and burn or soak in soapy water 3-5 days then throw them away.
  • Clipping and destroying webs in the fall and winter can reduce populations.
  • Pesticide applications can provide relief if webs are not within reach.
  • Licensed arborists can be hired to clip webs that are not within reach, the Maine Forest Service recommends hiring a licensed pesticide applicator for a pesticide application. A list of contractors willing to do browntail work can be found here:
  • If you plan to hire a contractor, be aware that the demand for services is high. Try to line up services early.

  • What is the best time of year to clip webs?

    What protective measures should I take when clipping webs?

  • Work with a partner, especially when working from a ladder or from a lift
  • Wear protective eyewear.
  • Wear gloves, long sleeves, and pants. Trees and shrubs may have toxic hairs from caterpillar activity.
  • Individuals with known sensitivity to browntail moth hairs may want to leave web clipping to others.

  • How do I manage browntail moth webs in tall trees?

  • Some libraries have sets of pole pruners for loan. You may also be able to rent pole pruners.
  • With care, a stable ladder, such as an orchard ladder or a lift can help in access to higher webs.
  • The Maine Forest Service maintains a list of licensed arborists providing pruning services that can be found at

  • How do I find a licensed arborist to remove browntail moth webs?

  • The Maine Forest Service maintains a list of licensed Arborists willing to clip nests
  • If you already have a relationship with a licensed arborist reach out to them in September to line them up for winter web removal.
  • An Arborist for hire must be state licensed and insured.
  • For more information on hiring an arborist see:

  • How do I determine if I have a high browntail moth population and what should I do?

  • Conduct a population assessment to determine how many webs are in the trees on your property. This should happen as early as possible in the dormant season beginning in October, however it is often difficult to spot webs in oaks until December. A guide to surveying for webs is available online here
  • Contractors (licensed pesticide applicators or arborists) should be lined up as soon as a decision is made to contract for help.
  • Web clipping should happen during the dormant season, generally October through Mid-April
  • Caterpillar treatments should happen in early spring, generally before the end of May.
  • The best time to manage browntail moth is when its populations are low.

  • I can’t afford to treat my trees, what can I do?

  • Clip and destroy any webs that are within reach during the dormant season (October through Mid-April)
  • Talk to your neighbors, they may be willing/able to help if they are already treating their trees.
  • Tree removal is an option to manage browntail moth, but the benefits of mature trees should be weighed against removal; removals can be followed by the planting of non-host trees.
  • Follow precautions to reduce exposure to browntail moth hairs.

  • My neighbor won’t treat their trees. Should I even consider treating mine?

  • Yes, however, consider the following:
    • Treating browntail moth in your yard will not impact the overall population. It can provide some relief in the treated areas for normal outdoor activities
    • Adult browntail moths are strong flyers and may find your treated trees from long distances, not just nearby untreated properties
    • Understand that there are many reasons people may choose not to treat browntail moth with pesticides. Having a conversation may help come up with an approach that works for the whole neighborhood.
  • Is tree removal recommended to help manage BTM?

  • If there are trees that can serve as a host for browntail on your property removal and planting a non-host tree such as a red or sugar maple is a viable option.
  • Tree removal can be successful year-round but is best performed from August to April.
  • Benefits of mature trees should be weighed against removal.

  • Does killing browntail moth adults (moths) help with management?

  • Moths found on buildings and in light traps are primarily males. Killing males is unlikely to reduce the next generation of browntail moth.
  • Using a bug-zapper or other device to kill insects attracted to lights is not recommended. It will kill insects that might help control browntail moth and other pests as well as browntail moths. It will also attract more browntail moths to the area. Females attracted to an area by lights tend to hang out in host tree foliage and are not captured in high numbers with these methods.

  • How do I find a licensed pesticide applicator?

  • The Maine Forest Service maintains a list of licensed pesticide applicators willing to treat trees:
  • A pesticide applicator must be properly licensed and insured to treat your property.
  • Contacting a licensed pesticide applicator should be done as soon as you think you’ll need one as there are a limited number of licensed applicators willing to treat for browntail moth
  • Contact: Board of Pesticide Control: (207) 287-2731,

  • Who do I contact for more information on browntail moth management?

  • The Maine Forest Service or Board of Pesticide control can answer questions related to BTM management.
  • Maine Forest Service: (207) 287-2431
  • Board of Pesticide Control: (207) 287-2731

  • Pesticide Options

    Should I use pesticides near marine waters?

  • First and most important the Board of Pesticides Control strongly urges homeowners to hire a licensed commercial pesticide applicator to help them with controlling the browntail moth. Applications near water are likely to drift into the water, which is dangerous to the environment, and a violation of the law.
  • The least toxic control method is to prune browntail moth nests during the months of October to April.
  • If a pesticide product is going to be used, the distance from the high-water mark will determine which products can be used.

  • What pesticides and application methods can I use 0 to 25 feet from the high-water mark?

  • The Board of Pesticides Control recommends hiring a licensed commercial applicator to treat for the browntail moth. Licensed commercial applicators have been trained on which pesticide products, application methods, and timing for treatments are appropriate for use on the browntail moth.
  • There are different rules/regulations for licensed commercial applicators and homeowners. The rules/regulations can be found at, specifically in Chapter 29, Standards for Water Quality Protection.

  • What pesticides and application methods can I use 25 to 50 feet for marine waters? The distance is always measured from the high-water mark:

  • There are different rules/regulations for licensed commercial applicators and homeowners.
  • Homeowners can use approved biological products that have active ingredients of:
    • Spinosad
    • BtK
    • Azadirachtin

    These products can be applied with powered equipment. The information listed on the pesticide label must be followed, IT IS THE LAW.

  • Licensed commercial applicators using non-powered equipment can apply products allowed in the policies found at
  • Soil and tree injections are approved for appropriate pesticides.

  • What pesticides and application methods can I use 50 to 250 feet from the high-water mark:

  • Products allowed by the Board of Pesticides Control’s policies currently can have active ingredients of:
    • Acephate
    • Chlorantraniliprole
    • Cyantraniliprole
    • Indoxacarb
    • Piperonyl Butoxide
    • Tebufenozide
    • Spinosad

    The Maine Forest Service does not recommend the use of products whose sole active ingredient is imidacloprid to control browntail moth.

  • Applications of products approved for use for 50 to 250 feet of marine waters high water mark can be made using hydraulic handheld and air-assisted equipment.
  • Applications must be directed away from the water
  • Applications must be made when the wind is greater than 2 MPH and less than 15 MPH (label may have further restrictions). The BPC recommends not spraying pesticide products if the wind is greater than 10 mph.

  • What pesticides and application methods can I use past 250 feet from the high-water mark:

  • Applications of any pesticide registered in Maine for use on trees or ornamental plants following Board of Pesticide Control regulations and the pesticide label restrictions. If the trees or plants are fruit bearing the pesticide must also be specifically labeled for use on those fruits.
  • The pesticide label is the law; applications must be made in accordance with label instructions.
  • The site must always be listed on the label (in this case, ornamental trees or fruit trees) Tree and soil injections can be applied from the high-water mark to 250 feet or more.
  • The products used must be approved for use on trees or ornamental plants. This information can be found on the pesticide label. If you have questions or for more information, please contact the Board of Pesticide Control by visiting their web site: or by calling (207) 287-2731

  • What pesticides can I use on fruit trees that are lower risk for pollinators or human consumption?

  • If the label has fruit trees listed under site section it can be applied. The EPA determines whether or not a pesticide is allowed on food crops; if there is too much risk, the label will not list for fruit trees.
  • If the pesticide has the Bee Label, there is a higher risk to pollinators.
  • The applicator must read and follow the label, it is the law.
  • Careful attention to the environmental warnings found on the label must be followed.

  • What is the timing for spraying for browntail moth caterpillars?

  • Refer to the pesticide label, some labels restrict applications to certain life stages.
  • Contact the Maine Forest Service at (207) 287-2431 or visit their website:

  • What method of pesticide application is best?

  • The best method of browntail moth management depends on the situation.
  • Pruning to remove the nests is the preferred control method.
  • Should you decide to use pesticides, foliar applications, tree and soil injections can be made using the products allowed by policy. It is recommended that you employ a licensed commercial applicator, or consult the BPC or MFS websites.
  • Contact: Board of Pesticides Control (207) 287-2731
  • Contact: Maine Forest Service: (207) 287-2431 for a list of arborists or visit

  • How do these pesticides work? (What is the mode of action of the pesticides used for browntail moth?)

    This depends on the product that is being applied. Pesticides used for browntail moth work by variable methods. Some products kill on contact, while others must be ingested by the caterpillar. Products that must be ingested may require time (even weeks) to provide control.

    What is the best pesticide to use for browntail moth?

  • While a pesticide product may have been tested for efficacy on similar species, due to the localized nature of browntail moth impact in Maine, there has been limited efficacy testing for browntail moth.
  • If the site or pest is listed on the label then the product has been tested by the EPA for efficacy/safety on that site or against that pest.
  • Contact: Maine Forest Service (207) 287-2431
  • Contact: Board of Pesticides Control (207) 287-2731

  • What are the impacts on birds, lobsters, bees, pets, and people?

  • The label will have information on impacts to non-target organisms and the environment. The Board of Pesticides control can provide assistance in understanding the label.
  • The pesticide products applied must follow the pesticide label to minimize risk. The BPC strongly urges homeowners to use a licensed commercial pesticide applicator.

  • Who do I contact for more information on pesticide choice?

    Board of Pesticides Control (207) 287-2731 can provide information on the active ingredients and their potential impacts.

    Health Concerns

    What are the symptoms of browntail moth toxin exposure?

  • A skin rash on any part of your body that was exposed. The rash tends to be red, bumpy, and itchy. It can cause discomfort for hours to weeks.
  • Respiratory issues such as breathing difficulty can occur if the browntail moth hairs are inhaled.
  • If you are having trouble breathing, swallowing, or swelling of your mouth, tongue, or throat, call 9-1-1.

  • How do I treat the rash?

  • Mild rashes can be treated at home with:
    • A cool bath with baking soda or Aveeno Oatmeal Bath
    • Hydrocortisone cream, such as Cortaid, sparingly to the itchiest areas
    • Calamine or caladryl lotion
  • If home remedies are not working, see your healthcare provider. There are medications that your healthcare provider might recommend.
  • Be careful not to apply any creams or lotions to places where young children may rub them into their eyes or mouth.

  • How do I treat respiratory symptoms?

  • You can take allergy medications for mild respiratory symptoms (e.g. runny nose, sneezing).
  • If you have asthma, an inhaler may reduce symptoms.
  • Call your healthcare provider if your symptoms continue.
  • If you have difficulty breathing, swelling of the mouth, tongue or throat, call 9-1-1.

  • Is the rash contagious?

    You cannot «catch» the rash from another person like you can a cold. The hairs need to come in contact with your skin, mouth, throat, or respiratory tract for symptoms to appear.

    Is it safe to eat food grown in infested areas?

  • If you suspect that a fruit or vegetable is contaminated with browntail moth caterpillar hairs, you should not eat the fruit or vegetable unless it can be peeled and/or cleaned to completely remove the hairs.
  • Leafy vegetables may be more difficult to clean and may have a greater chance of retaining the caterpillar hairs, even after the washing process.
  • Ingestion of the hairs is a concern because of possible allergic reactions in the mouth, throat, and esophagus, as well as the possibility of breathing in the hairs, which could cause respiratory issues.

  • Can I build up a tolerance to the browntail moth caterpillar hair toxin?

    There is not enough research available on browntail moth caterpillar hair toxin to know if individuals can build up a tolerance to the toxin.

    Will the reaction to the hairs get worse each time I am exposed?

    There is not enough research on browntail available on browntail moth caterpillar hair toxin to know if the reactions will increase in severity each time an individual is exposed.

    Who can I contact for more information on browntail moth health concerns?

    Reducing Toxic Hair Exposure

    When is the greatest risk of getting the rash?

  • The greatest risk for exposure to the toxic hairs is between April and July.
  • Caterpillars, shed skins, and cocoons all have toxic hairs.
  • The toxin is stable in the environment for one to three years and hairs can become airborne at any time.
  • It is important to take precautions year-round in heavily infested areas.

  • How do I avoid exposure to the browntail moth toxic hairs?

  • When working in heavily infested areas, wear proper protective equipment to reduce exposure including:
    • Long sleeves
    • Long pants
    • Goggles
    • Dust mask/respirator
    • Hat
    • Disposable coveralls
  • Avoid heavily infested areas between April and August, don’t use leaf blowers or lawnmowers on dry days in these areas
  • Using pre-contact poison ivy wipes can help minimize hairs sticking into exposed skin
  • Do yardwork on wet days, which decreases the likelihood that the hairs will become airborne.
  • Make sure to use a HEPA filter on a wet/dry vacuum to decrease the likelihood that the hairs will become airborne.
  • Do not dry laundry outside in infested areas.

  • I covered up and I still got a rash. What else can I do?

  • Take a cool shower after working in an infested area. This will help wash away any hairs on your body.
  • Consider using disposable coveralls for outside work. Take care in removing protective clothing.

  • Who can I contact for more information on reducing exposures to browntail moth toxic hairs?

    Public policy/Economic impacts

    Why won’t the state eradicate Browntail Moth?

    Browntail moth is not a pest that can be eradicated. It has been in the United States for more than 100 years. Populations at low levels can escape notice. Browntail moth travels readily on vehicles, plants and other carriers and the adult moths are good flyers.

    What is the State doing?

  • The state agencies are committed to coordinating within state government and with others outside to respond to this issue. However, the responsibility for making decisions and raising necessary resources for pest control projects is most appropriately handled at the local or individual level.
  • The Maine CDC works to provide information to health care providers and the public about the health risks from browntail moth.
  • The Maine Forest Service works with cooperators to develop tools for management and provide the technical support necessary to respond to towns, businesses and private individuals to manage this and other pest situations.
  • The Board of Pesticides Control is committed to providing the information needed to support the proper use of pesticides.

  • Is the state doing anything to help landowners/towns who have BTM?

  • Currently, the state is supporting and conducting research, tracking infestations, supporting public nuisance declarations and providing education to communities in public presentations.
  • For information about whether a public information session is scheduled in your area, contact your town office.


    Best Moth Balls

    With so many different moth killing products available today, moth balls are less popular than they used to be. However, despite the fact that it’s debatable whether or not moth balls are the best moth repellent option out there, they are still a great preventive option to have in any homeowner’s arsenal. Which is why in this article we not only give you a list of the best mothballs currently available. But also try to dispel some of the myths associated with moth balls. Along with examining what are moth balls made of, how long do mothballs last and many more question related to mothballs.

    MothGuard Moth Balls

    Since these are the old-fashioned moth balls they will be perfect for keeping moths away from any and all enclosed storage areas.

    Enoz Para Moth Balls

    Effective yet eco-friendly are the defining characteristics that make these para moth balls a great moth-control option.

    IMS Moth Balls

    These efficient multi-purpose moth balls will be great for those who want to get rid of both moths and carpet beetles.

    MothGuard Old Fashioned Moth Balls

    What we like:

    • MothGuard Moth Balls kill all stages of the clothes moth development and effectively prevent their future spreading
    • Comes with 3 boxes
    • One ounce of these moth balls can treat up to 3 cubic feet when used in sealed containers
    • Kills not only moths but also carpet beetles
    • Has a nice side effect against mildew

    What we don’t like:

    • These moth balls have a very strong smell so keep that in mind and use them sparingly


    Coming from MothGuard, these are their Old-Fashioned Moth Balls. It comes in three boxes which adds up to roughly 135 moth balls.

    The main ingredient in the MothGuard moth balls is para-dichlorobenzene and it makes up 99.75% of the whole product. As with other good paradichlorobenzene mothballs, you can expect high effectiveness, strong prevention, long-lasting effect and no clinging odor from this product.

    MothGuard’s para moth balls kill moths, their eggs and larvae, as well as carpet beetles. They also have an effect on mildew in living rooms and bathrooms, although they are not specialized to combat mildew on their own.

    These MothGuard’s original moth balls also have a strong initial odor but it quickly vanishes and doesn’t stay on your clothes or in cling in your closet.

    You can put these moth balls directly with the clothes and no protection or separation is required. These moth balls are ideal for drawers, closet areas, chests, trunks, and other storage areas to protect your clothes and other textile products.

    One ounce of the moth balls (approximately 8 balls) is enough for about 3 cubic feet of storage space.

    Enoz Para Moth Balls

    What we like:

    • With their strong and effective formula, these moth balls work against all kinds of insects and pests, and can even repel rodents
    • Eco-friendly and approved by the EPA, the Enoz para moth balls are both an effective and a safe bet
    • Their otherwise strong odor is easy to get rid of with a simple half an hour air-drying


    If you are looking for Enoz old fashioned moth balls you’d be right to expect them to make our list. These Enoz moth balls have everything going for them. They are eco-friendly and are approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA registration number: 1475-39). Moreover, they are also a highly effective pest control tool. They easily get your drawers, closet spaces, chests, trunks, and other storage spaces rid of all kinds of pests. Things such as moths, their larvae and eggs, carpet beetles, other insects, or even rodents, will quickly leave you alone thanks to these Enoz moth balls.

    Of course, they wouldn’t have made the cut into our best moth balls list if they didn’t offer great value as well. A lot of tools can be effective against pests, but few do it efficiently too. These Enoz para moth balls come at a great price for the quality and longevity that they offer.

    As you’d expect from a top-rated product, these moth balls are also free from any lasting odors. They evaporate sufficiently and spread through 100% of the enclosed area without leaving any odor behind them. All you need to do is air-dry the articles for

    30 minutes and they will be odor-free.

    Each pack comes with 80 moth balls inside, so with 3 packs, this means 240 mothballs for clothes and storage spaces that will be at your disposal. If you are tired of using cheap and ineffective moth balls, and other moth repellents that are just wastes of money, the Enoz para moth balls are a great alternative.

    IMS Moth Balls

    What we like:

    • Very strong and effective moth balls that easily get rid of moths, carpet beetles, other insects and pests, and even rodents
    • The IMS moth balls are really effective over large areas and one pack can cover up to 52 cubic feet
    • The IMS moth balls have an impressively long life, especially if they are placed in an air-tight space

    What we don’t like:

    • These IMS moth balls do have a rather strong odor and the particles need to be effectively aired out to get rid of the odour


    We are starting our best moth balls list with these IMS Original moth balls. These mothballs are really well fit to answer the question of “What are moth balls used for?” with “Pretty much everything!” With those 4 packs of 4 ounces each, you will get a sure-fire way of repelling all moths, carpet beetles, and other similar insects from your home. The IMS moth balls effectively deal with both grown moths, as well as with their larvae and eggs. There are a lot of uses for mothballs in the house and the IMS moth balls can work anywhere. In your closet, in drawers, in trunks, in storage areas, in the basement, and anywhere else, as long as it’s a nice air-tight space.

    What’s more, these IMS moth balls are great mothballs for pest control as well. They are also strong and effective enough to even repel rodents. When placed in an adequate storage area and in a well thought out quantity, the IMS moth balls can repel mice, rats, and even squirrel off of boats. Some people face difficulties when attempting to repel rodents with moth balls such as these IMS balls, but the issue is usually with the number of moth balls used or with how air-tight the storage area is.

    So, when it comes to wondering what do mothballs repel, there are many good answers. If you use the IMS moth balls in an air-tight space, this quantity will be enough for 52 cubic feet, which is pretty impressive.

    When opened, the IMS moth balls have a rather strong and pleasant smell, but they don’t leave a lasting odor once the area gets air-dried.

    Other products to consider

    Enoz Old Fashioned Mothballs

    The Enoz Old Fashioned Mothballs are an effective product. Each box contains 14 ounces of old fashioned moth balls. However, keep in mind that these moth balls do contain Naphthalene, therefore they have an extremely potent scent and can cause breathing difficulties if not used in a well-ventilated area.

    Enoz Moth Ball Packets

    Another Enoz product is the Enoz Moth Ball Packets. These moth ball packets come with a pleasant lavender smell. They are effective at what they do, but they are quite small and are intended only for small, flat storage areas like drawers and chests.

    Homebright Moth Balls

    Homebright Moth Balls are effective at killing clothes moths and their eggs and larvae. However, they are only intended for small and enclosed flat areas such as drawers and chests.

    Cedar Space Moth Balls

    In the Cedar Space Moth Balls package there are 24 high-quality mothballs that are made of cedarwood, 85% of which is core wood. These cedar mothballs are natural and therefore safe to use. And they are also kid and pet-friendly.

    About moth balls

    A quick breakdown of moth balls

    Moth balls are a very simple product – they are usually comprised of a

    99% active ingredient, and

    1% additives. The active ingredients in moth balls are typically either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene. Naphthalene is the older and more typically used in previous years ingredient. It has a strong and recognizable smell, but it’s harmless to people (the smell, that is). Para-dichlorobenzene has risen to popularity in recent years, as it is more or less odorless, which is why people don’t just smell of naphthalene balls all the time anymore. However, there are some that raise concerns about the health safety of para-dichlorobenzene, but we’ll take a more detailed look at that question below.

    Whether they are naphthalene balls or para-dichlorobenzene (para-DCB), moth balls are solid balls, usually enveloped in a thin cloth, that slowly evaporate in the air until they are gone. It’s that evaporation that kills any clothes moths and their larvae, as well as any carpet beetles. That’s also what keeps other pests at bay and makes the moth balls such an effective prevention tool.

    How long do mothballs last?

    The longevity of a moth ball depends on several factors, including its quality. Lower quality moth balls, whether naptha mothballs or Para-DCB ones, can evaporate really quickly. For our Top 3 list, we really tried to focus on high-quality moth balls only. This may sound weird as we just explained that the mothball chemical ingredients are typically just a single chemical. Still, depending on the quality of the ingredient itself, on the other 1% supporting ingredients, as well as on how the product has been stored, significant variations in the final quality tend to occur.

    Another factor that can affect the longevity of your moth balls is how exactly you use them.

    Moth balls are best used in enclosed areas which retain the chemical vapor and stop the ball from evaporating too quickly.

    Where to buy mothballs?

    Moth balls can be bought from almost anywhere. Online, from home supplies stores, from general goods stores. Moth balls have been a standard item in Western households for more than a century, so they are pretty easy to find. In fact, if you consider some of the natural ways to repent clothes moths (such as chestnuts), it could be said that some variations of moth balls have been used for millennia.

    Are there any health dangers to moth balls?

    This is a more complicated question than it seems and can easily be answered either way. Generally, both naphthalene moth balls and Para-DCB moth balls are considered harmless if used correctly. And by that we mean, when you follow the product’s instructions and set up the moth balls in such a way that you minimize the amount of inhalation you or your family will do. Making sure that no human or pet will inhale too much of the moth ball’s vapor at once is another key reason why moth balls should be placed in air-tight areas only. Inhaling too much moth ball vapor even from a naphthalene moth ball, can cause dizziness, eye pain, and head pain.

    Para-DCB is feared even more than naphthalene by a lot of people. There isn’t any conclusive evidence that Para-DCB can be dangerous to humans when inhaled in even moderate quantities. However, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has concluded that para-DCB can be anticipated to potentially be a carcinogen. Permanent exposures to very high levels of Para-DCB, especially when coupled with other occupational exposures, may even cause liver and kidney damage or even birth defects. None of this is conclusive, but the state of California, for example, has already declared this compound as a human carcinogen. Most other countries and states still view Para-DCB as harmless when used properly, but it’s worth a thought, especially if you have children at home.

    Additionally, moth balls can also be dangerous if they are simply found and physically interacted with by a child or a pet. In ingested, a moth ball pf either naphthalene or Para-DCB can have disastrous health consequences. That’s why it is always advisable to be safe when placing moth balls and put them out of your kids’ and pets’ reach.

    Other alternative options to use instead of moth balls

    Whether you don’t want to use moth balls because of their smell or because of possible health concerns, there are alternatives that you can employ. For starters, there are some other chemical products that serve a similar purpose:

    Clothes moth killer sprays are not as much of a preventive measure as they are a treatment against existing moths. They are intended for use on the inner walls of your closet, drawers or other enclosed spaces and they kill moths and their eggs or larvae. Depending on the spray, they may also have a strong preventive function and ensure that there won’t be any future moth infestations in the near future. Even such sprays are more of a treatment method than a prevention compared to moth balls, however.

    Clothes moth foggers are similar to killer sprays, but much more “heavy-duty”. They are the hand grenades of the anti-moth war. They come in canisters with a “total release” cap. The idea is that you will pop the cap, throw the canister into the room or area you need gassed, and close it. After several hours of work, the canister should have exterminated pretty much any living thing in that room. This is obviously a very powerful tool with quite a limited range of applications. This makes it less of an alternative to moth balls and more of a final measure if you haven’t been using moth balls and your closet space has been contaminated.


    Don’t wash possibly infected clothes with your other clothes. Machine washing isn’t guaranteed to deal with clothes moth larvae and can instead just spread them to your other clothes.

    A middle-of-the-road option between clothes moth killer sprays and moth balls, clothes moth dust function as both prevention and treatment. They usually come in a canister or a tube and are meant to be spread with a brush in all hard to reach spots in your house. Behind baseboards, under carpets, under low furniture, and so on, clothes moth dust go where clothes moth balls and clothes moth killer sprays can’t reach.

    Clothes moth killer kits are essentially kits that consist of all of the above. Because different clothes moth killer tools have different uses and applications, such kits include multiple tools to help you deal with any situation.

    All this brings up the question of how to get rid of clothes moths naturally. All methods we’ve talked about so far include the use of heavy chemicals that some homeowners don’t really want in their homes. Of course, there are more natural options.

    There are clothes moth killer sprays and moth balls that don’t include any naphthalene, Para-DCB, or any other similar chemicals. Such items are sold anywhere on the market and are usually intended for prevention only. They can work if used properly on an un-infested or lightly-infested area but can struggle to deal with a full-blown contamination.

    Chestnuts, oak nuts, and some weeds are known to have scents that repel clothes moths. Such natural prevention methods have been used in the past before chemical moth repellents were invented. Again, they can work as a preventive measure, but they can’t really deal with a developed infestation or protect you from a strong “invasion” of clothes moths.

    Instead of using any clothes moth repelling methods you can also just not leave your clothes exposed to an infestation.

    Useful information

    Clothes moths don’t just attack any clothes they find – they need to find enclosed spaces that are devoid of any light and airflow, that you don’t reach into and move clothes around. So, your every-day closet that you use 7 days of the week is pretty much safe from clothes moths.

    Lastly, dry cleaning is one of the best ways to deal with clothes moth eggs and larvae.

    If you’ve discovered a clothes moth infestation, after dealing with the adult moths themselves, it’s best to get your clothes to a dry cleaner regardless of whether you have clothes moth killer tools or not.

    Moth ball buying guide

    All these questions will help you adequately choose the ideal moth balls for your situation. The key features you need to focus on are their size, strength, longevity, and odor. In some cases, you will need weaker but more long-lasting moth balls, while in others you need a strong short-term help with an existing problem.

    All these factors should be viewed with a priority over the moth balls’ price since even the more expensive moth balls aren’t usually that pricey. In fact, moth balls tend to be a product group where the price reflects the quality of the product pretty well, so it’s good to keep that in mind.

    Another reflection of the clothes moth balls quality is usually their brand. There are multiple brands that are famous for their quality and are usually a safe and smart purchase. Here are our recommendations: Homebright, Paragon, Enoz and MothGuard.

    Other useful information on mothballs

    However, if you are going to use moth balls for such a situation, it’s important to take a lot of safety measures.

    Toxic moth balls that are just left lying around in your garden or garage can be played with or even eaten by your pet or child, which can lead to serious health concerns.

    All in all, using moth balls for such purposes is possible, but applying caution is strongly advised.

    How to use moth balls

    Aside from the safety measures you should take, there is also the matter of their application. It’s important to use your moth balls in accordance to their user guides and the space they are meant in. Using too few moth balls in too big of a space can make them ineffective while using too much moth balls in a small space can lead to too strong of an odor.

    If you want to prolong the life of your moth balls (so they can last you throughout the entire winter or the entire summer), you can use a ziplock bag with a few tiny holes punctured in it. Putting moth balls in such a bag will help them last longer although it will also lower their effectiveness.

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