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Environment and Outdoors

Maine Scientists Expect Browntail Moth Infestation To Be As Bad Or Worse Than 2020

State entomologist Allison Kanoti says last year's dry spring means Maine is in store for a browntail moth season as bad as last year, or worse.

Moth Misery
Maine Forest Servic ACF
In a May 2016 photo provided by the Maine Forest Service, browntail caterpillars feed in Maine. The caterpillars’ hairs can cause a painful rash in humans. State scientists say it’s difficult to control the spread of the bugs, which has been aided by dry weather.

Browntail caterpillars have tiny, toxic hairs that break off and can cause rashes and breathing problems in humans. Kanoti says every county could see infestations.

"It's patchier in some places than others. For instance, in the midcoast and in the capitol region, there's pretty heavy populations throughout that area. But as you get further out into the edges of the population, they tend to be a lot more scattered in distribution," she says.

But Kanoti says webs were found in every county this winter.

"I would say having webs sighted in Fort Fairfield was a little bit of a surprise. I think in the last century browntail moths certainly got up toward Houlton and beyond, and it's been a very long time since it's been seen there," she says.

Kanoti says it's getting late in the season to find availability with a licensed pesticide applicator to manage the population through chemical controls. She says those professionals are best lined up in the winter. But she says webs within reach should be clipped and destroyed.