Maine Could Give Cities Money To Stop Moth Causing Skin Rashes | Maine News

By PATRICK WHITTLE, Associated Press

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine lawmakers are considering creating a new fund to help cities and towns try to slow the spread of an invasive moth that can cause an itchy skin rash in humans.

The fund would help communities fight the brown moth, which has been the subject of an ongoing outbreak in the state that began about seven years ago. Moth caterpillars have poisonous hairs that can cause respiratory problems and a rash that looks like poison ivy.

The fund would start with $150,000 in grants in the 2022-23 fiscal year. The money could be used by municipalities and non-profit groups for activities that control the spread of the moth, such as hiring arborists and pesticide applicators and renting equipment to cut the moths. moth nests, said the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Rep. Allison Hepler of Woolwich.

The moth arrived in Maine a century ago, and entomologists said last year was the worst year for moth infestations in its history. The butterfly is also found in Massachusetts.

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“It’s a problem. And it’s not going away,” Hepler said. “It’s just a way to help small towns, to distribute resources.”

Maine forestry officials have named February Brown Tail Moth Awareness Month to try to encourage residents to be aware of the moth and take steps to slow its spread. The worst infestations have occurred in southern Maine and the coastal region of the state.

The proposed fund was the subject of a public hearing before a committee of the Maine Legislative Assembly on Tuesday. The Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry is expected to vote on the proposal in the near future.

Moths can also have devastating consequences for woodland owners as they feed on hardwood trees and shrubs, said Karla Black, assistant general manager of Maine Woodland Owners. The group testified in favor of the creation of the new fund.

“As we move towards spring and the start of another brown moth season, this bill offers a ray of hope,” Black said.

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