BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — The browntail moth is wreaking havoc across Maine this summer.
First introduced on Cape Cod in the 1890s, the caterpillar has undergone significant growth in Maine due to the ongoing drought.
According to environmental officials, over 35,000 residents across the state have been impacted.
"The browntail moth caterpillar has tiny poisonous hairs that cause dermatitis similar to poison ivy on sensitive individuals," the Maine Department of Disease Surveillance stated. "People may develop dermatitis from direct contact with the caterpillar or indirectly from contact with airborne hairs."
Those affected by the hairs can experience a poison ivy-like rash and respiratory distress.
Jim Britt, a spokesman for the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry said, "People are finding them everyplace: on the ground, on the picnic table, on the electrical box, on the corner — you name it,” Britt said. “They are heavily present. Folks will see them all over."
The caterpillars are active from April to late June but their hairs remain toxic throughout the summer and get washed into the soil and are less of a problem over time.
WBZ NewsRadio's Jim MacKay (@JimMacKayOnAir) reports: