Even though areas of the country deal with swarms of cicadas this summer, Maine is struggling with an infestation of an invasive species of caterpillar with toxic hairs that can result in people to establish unpleasant rashes and even breathing issues.
The caterpillars, identified as browntail moths, are about 1.5 inches extended and have white dashes down their sides and two red dots on their backs.
Browntail moths are most common together Maine’s coast and on Cape Cod, but they’ve been spotted this calendar year in all of Maine’s 16 counties, explained Jim Britt, a spokesman for the Maine Division of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.
“People are obtaining them everyplace: on the floor, on the picnic desk, on the electrical box, on the corner — you title it,” Mr. Britt mentioned. “They are heavily present. Individuals will see them all over.”
“We are in the midst of an outbreak,” he mentioned.
The caterpillars have small toxic hairs that can continue to be harmful for as extended as three decades, the Maine Division of Health and fitness and Human Companies warned.
Following men and women occur in speak to with the caterpillar’s hairs, they can develop a purple and bumpy rash very similar to a reaction to poison ivy that can linger for a handful of hrs to several months, the division explained. If the hairs are inhaled, some persons can develop breathing issues.
Other persons, like Mr. Britt who explained he not long ago came across the caterpillars in a park, create no indicators.
“They had been in all places, and I experienced absolutely no response to them,” he said.
There is no precise treatment method for the rash, other than solutions like calamine lotion, the division reported.
In Waterville, Maine, a city about 20 miles north of Augusta, the caterpillar infestation has gotten so out of control that the mayor known as an unexpected emergency meeting of the City Council to declare a community well being unexpected emergency and buy insecticide.
“After a pandemic 12 months, while we are ultimately able to begin getting out and socializing, this is the past detail we want to be dealing with,” the mayor, Jay Coelho, said at the meeting, adding that he experienced gained numerous emails from Waterville citizens with pics of unpleasant rashes.
The caterpillars expend the winter season in oak trees and other hardwood trees, and emerge in the spring, Mr. Britt explained.
Browntail moths are not new to Maine, which has had them for a century. The caterpillars at first came from Massachusetts, but ended up in Maine “because they’re professional hitchhikers,” Mr. Britt mentioned.
While it is unclear what accurately triggered this recent infestation, Mr. Britt explained dry circumstances are “absolutely ideal” for browntail moths to extend their arrive at.
Throughout the Waterville emergency conference, a Town Council member, Thomas Klepach, expressed issue that local weather alter could worsen infestations in decades to occur.
“It is clever for the city to get the outbreak beneath regulate as considerably as we can now,” Mr. Klepach explained, “and to realize that this could be on ongoing dilemma.”
Maine’s Department of Wellbeing and Human Providers endorses showering and changing outfits just after currently being in regions with browntail moths, sporting a mask and goggles when executing outdoor actions, these kinds of as raking leaves, and executing yardwork on damp days.