A University of Maine professor is researching how the natural enemies of an invasive moth can be used to stop the pest’s growth in Maine.

The browntail moth is loathed around Maine for its ability to infest trees and hurt people. The moth’s caterpillars have toxic hairs that can cause respiratory diseases and rashes that resemble poison ivy.

UMaine entomology professor Eleanor Groden is looking into how things like fungi and viruses that target the caterpillars can help slow them down. The caterpillars’ range is growing, making it a bigger pain. Its hairs can become airborne as it molts, and they can then settle on everything from patio furniture to hang-drying laundry.

UMaine says Groden’s research is part of a larger initiative to monitor and manage the moths.

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