Who knew that something as harmless looking as a caterpillar could be so harmful? This is a brown tail moth caterpillar, and this year much of the coast of Maine has been inundated with them. The brown tail moth is an invasive species said to currently exist in the U.S. only on Cape Cod and in Maine. Over the years one thing or another has destroyed them, but these days their population, especially in Maine, has been on the rise.
The moth builds nests in the fall and sometime around April thousands of caterpillars appear. They feed on their host trees completely denuding them in the process. As if that’s not bad enough the caterpillar releases tiny barbed hairs that are airborne. That means humans become their unsuspecting victims as the toxic hairs pierce the skin and cause an extremely irritating rash. Inhaled the hairs also can result in serious respiratory issues.
Last year we heard some talk of the caterpillar, but this year it’s more than talk. People are under attack and it is not uncommon to see someone with an inflamed red rash. So many people are suffering that pharmacies have sold completely out of anything that could be regarded as treatment. What is really sad is that nothing seems to work and even worse is that the toxins can stay in the body for weeks and, in some cases, years. Just the thought of that makes me crazy to say nothing about itchy!
The caterpillars should become moths sometime this month, and that will stop the attacks. You can be sure though that if I see a brown tail moth, it doesn’t have a chance of surviving!
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