The invasive browntail moth caterpillar is abundant in Maine this year, and they can be harmful to humans. Microscopic hairs on the caterpillars can cause “a blistery, oozy rash and respiratory distress,” according to the Maine Forest Service. Credit: Courtesy of the Maine Forest Service

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine pest managers say this is the best time of year to get rid of a species of caterpillar that can cause a painful rash in humans.

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry says winter is prime time to remove browntail moth caterpillars. The caterpillars can cause a rash that resembles poison ivy.

However, they spend the winter in silken wrapped leaves on the tips of branches. They are especially present on oak and fruit trees. The forestry department says December through mid-April is a great time to look for the webs, clip them and destroy them with an overnight soapy water soak.

The webs can be identified by their bright white silk that ties leaves to the tips of branches. The caterpillars aren’t active until warmer weather arrives.