This spring and, now, summer season, areas across the Midcoast, Central and Northern Maine have seen quite an uptick in conversation about the Browntail Moth, more specifically it's caterpillar form. The toxic hairs on the caterpillar cause rash similar to poison ivy and can cause respiratory issues for some people.

So, you can't blame people who want to get rid of the moth in some sort of Yankee-ingenuity kind of way.

Local Facebook groups have been flooded with recipes made of a cocktail of over-the-counter ingredients to help with the rash and now we are seeing how people are trying to rid their property of the insect. At this time, the caterpillars have cocooned and are now transforming into moths. You may have seen the photos of swarms of the Browntail moth in Central Maine and on the Midcoast, scenes similar to what southern states went through with the birth of Brood X cicadas in late May into June.

Townsquare Media Bangor, Sarah Nickerson
Townsquare Media Bangor, Sarah Nickerson

One particular way that people are hoping to rid their area of the moths/caterpillars is by attracting the moths to a light with a bucket of soapy water underneath the light to drown the insect and ultimately kill the moth. As much as I wish this could help the situation, University of Maine Assistant Professor of Forest Entomology Angela Mech, states that this strategy will actually cause more of a problem for your property.

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Angela is working on a pilot study currently, with graduate student Sadia Crosby, to attract the moths to traps using pheromones. This pilot study could lead to a big development that could create a safe, effective way to disturb the breeding of this particular insect which could be completed on a mass scale across large areas of Maine.

Having a light on during the 9 PM to midnight hours will attract the flying insect to your home. During it's visit, the insects will mate in nearby bushes. Even if it does die in the bucket of soapy water it's likely that mating had already occurred not too far from your outside light, bringing future generations of the insect practically to your front door.

So, even though we want to have some sort of solution to this awful insect, the best course of action right now is to turn off outside lights for the next month to six weeks so that the moth does not get attracted to the area around your house. This will keep them at bay or at least off of your property as much as you can control that.

As for your neighbors doing the soapy water bucket thing, maybe you can show them this article as a way to still be neighborly but get your point across that their solution seems logical but really isn't helping either of you.

Check out more about the pilot study Assistant Professor Angela Mech and graduate student Sadia Crosby are doing now that could be a game changer for the residents of Maine suffering from with the presence of the Browntail Moth and caterpillar.

University of Maine Researchers Doing Browntail Moth Study

This pilot study is determining if pheromones could be the key to disrupting the Maine pests population and help reduce the infestation across the State of Maine. Ultimately, this research could be the large scale answer to dealing with the Browntail Moth problem here in the state.

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