“In the summer of 1896 I first noticed the brown-tail moth on my premises. The caterpillars did not do any particular damage that year, though the millers came out thick. In 1897 the caterpillars came out in such numbers they destroyed everything. I did not take any special pains to get rid of them until after they had eaten up everything. We had no fruit that year, and we have had none in 1898. While feeding, the caterpillars would devour leaves, fruit, buds and all. In 1896 only one small tree was attacked the next year they attacked the cherry, elm, pear and apple trees. They came into the house; the walks and fences were also covered with them. For three or four days I went out every morning and swept them off the planks. Last winter I cut off all the tents, so that we did not have any this year. Generally speaking, my neighbors took care of their trees, though there were a few who did not.”
Accidental Introduction to New England
The brown-tail caterpillar was accidentally imported to Somerville, Massachusetts, most likely on roses, in the late 1800’s. The insect came to the attention of the public when it achieved outbreak proportions in 1897. To quote a local resident:
A laboratory colony of young caterpillars of the brown-tail moth showing the silk nest, the egg mass (arrow), and the larvae skeletonizing the leaves of apple.