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Browntail moths spreading beyond the midcoast

A 'Survivor" winner from Maine is leading the charge to re-start a program to eliminate the invasive pest

DURHAM (NEWSCENTER Maine)-- An invasive pest known for their toxic hair that can blister the skin -- are expanding their reach into the Greater Portland area and other parts of Maine.

The Maine Forest Service says Browntail moths in areas that cover more than 65-hundred square miles. Historically the highest concentrations have been in the midcoast -- but exposure areas are expanding to as far as Standish to Turner and just east of Jefferson.

Entomologists because of the hot and windy weather this summer -- the toxic hairs from the Browntail caterpillar are still circulating -- people need to wear long sleeves and pants when they mow. People should also avoid sitting under oak and apple trees that have been damaged by moths. Homeowners can take a whack at pruning the webs later this fall.

'If you know where they are and there is a little bit of feeding in the trees - that will knock the population down until next spring where it will be less of an issue,' said Colleen Teerling a Forest Entomologist with the Maine Forest Service.

Some residents are lobbying lawmakers to reinstate a Browntail moth eradication program. Until it ended in the early 80's, the federal and state program kept the pests confined to two small islands in Casco Bay. Bob Crowley -- who won the Survivor title ten years ago worked to keep the moths from spreading to the mainland in the 70's. He says the public's health is at stake but it may take years to start another eradication program.

'It's going to take ten years because they are going to have to change some of the laws and allow them to spray until the state takes over it will only get worse' said Crowley, a retired science teacher.

Information on the health problems associated with exposures available here:


Information on a map of high-risk exposure areas:


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