Waterville officials taking steps to combat influx of browntail moth caterpillars

Maine public health officials asking residents to be cautious of Browntail Moth Caterpillars
Maine public health officials asking residents to be cautious of Browntail Moth Caterpillars
Updated: Jun. 9, 2021 at 4:45 PM EDT
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WATERVILLE, Maine (WABI) - The City of Waterville is taking necessary steps when it comes to protecting residents against an invasive species known as the browntail moth caterpillar.

According to the Maine CDC, they’re active from April to late June.

They have tiny poisonous hairs that can cause rashes for people, and for some, it can be quite severe.

“Since I’ve gotten here, I’ve always wanted Waterville to sort of take the lead on these things, and that’s sort of what we did,” said Mayor of Waterville, Jay Coelho.

City officials are urging everyone to be cautious when outdoors right now.

In recent weeks, the city has received a number of complaints from residents saying they or their kids have developed rashes from browntail moth caterpillars.

“Parks, playgrounds, some of our schools have them,” said Coehlo. “And, really residents. Residents have them on their own properties - fruits trees, oak trees. I mean, you can just drive around town and see oak trees with no leaves on them.”

Officials have also posted flyers on the city’s home page as well as on the fire and police department pages.

There, residents can identify signs and symptoms to look out for if they think they can been in contact with one.

You can also find tips to control the browntail moth caterpillars on your property.

City officials say the council set aside $5,000 to deal with the issues.

Spreading awareness is what their goal is right now. They’ll deal with the issue in a bigger way come winter.

“The leaves are off the trees. You can see where the nests are, and you can treat the nests or the trees individually, rather than doing a broad indiscriminate spray,” explained Waterville City Manager, Stephen Daly.

This summer, it’s a good idea to keep your mask handy. Experts say you should wear a mask, goggles, or coveralls when doing any activity that could stir up browntail moth hairs.

“It’s not a bad idea to use those when you’re in the parks and playgrounds, and especially if you’re around a wooded area that has grass or bushes next to it because those hairs are going to be in the air somewhere,” said Daly.

More information on browntail moth caterpillars can be found here.

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