AUGUSTA, M.E (WBZ NewsRadio) — An invasive moth species has become a forest and human health concern and may force funding for a program that would manage them, Maine lawmakers discussed in a public committee hearing on Tuesday.
The browntail moth, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention, is an invasive species of moth found only on the coast of Maine and Cape Cod in the U.S. Officials said that browntail moth caterpillars have tiny poisonous hairs that can cause rashes on humans upon contact, similar to the effect of poison ivy on certain individuals. On sensitive victims, the rash can be severe and last for several weeks.
But even without contact rashes can occur, as the caterpillar hairs can become airborne from either being dislodged or shed when the insects molt, the Maine CDC said. If inhaled, the browntail moth caterpillar hairs can cause "serious respiratory distress," officials said.
The proposal presented by Representative Allison Hepler of Woolwich, would allot a department total of $343,908 for the 2022-2023 fiscal year. A little less than half of that would go towards funding a governmental entity or non-profit to control and slow the spread of the moths, while the rest would fund entomologist and technician positions and other costs.