Saturday, May 25, 2024

Browntail moths return with warmer weather: Know the signs, protect your health

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The warmer weather is here which means browntail moths are becoming more active.

“They’re pretty small right now but they are typically going to be found on oak trees, cherries, elm, they love their crab apple trees and we’re just at that time of the year where we are starting to see buds bursting, we are starting to see full leaves so they are going to be out chewing,” said Brittany Schappach, an Entomologist for the Maine Forest Service.

So you may be asking yourself, what makes browntail moths so harmful?

“The actual hair itself is barbed so when it lands on you you’re getting irritation from the barb, it’s almost like it’s stabbing you. The hair itself is actually hollow and inside that hair is actually a toxin which is also really irritating.”

If you find a browntail moth nest in your yard high up in a tree and think you’re not at risk, however, all it takes is a little breeze and the toxic hairs can still impact you.

“Unfortunately, you don’t even have to come in contact with the caterpillar. If you just happen to be under a tree and there’s a whole bunch of caterpillars above you, those hairs are readily broken off just by a gust of wind, then they will rain down and have the potential to cause a rash,” says Schappach.

If a rash does develop it may be best to make an appointment with your doctor.

But there are separate remedies as well.

“If you know it’s browntail moths there are a couple of over the counter things that you can grab. Things like hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion, taking cool showers can be really soothing, anything that will be an anti-itch will be helpful as well,” Schappach said.

If you see a nest you can spray the area with a garden hose—it will help keep the hairs from being stirred up and airborne.

You can use an interactive browntail moth map by visiting their website.

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