FALMOUTH — The Town Council has approved spending $30,000 from the undesignated fund to fight the spreading infestation of browntail moths.

A survey of nests conducted in December revealed that the problem is particularly acute in the northeastern part of town.

Browntail moths have become a perennial problem along the Maine coast, with the heaviest infestations between Falmouth and Boothbay.

In their caterpillar stage each summer, the moths shed microscopic hairs that drift in the air and can be toxic for up to three years.

Reactions to the hair range from mild rashes to something similar to poison ivy to trouble breathing.

The town will hire Whitney Tree Service in New Gloucester to spray along town-owned property and along public streets this spring, Town Manager Nathan Poore said Monday.


Poore said that Falmouth last sprayed to combat browntail moths in 2002.

The inventory the town conducted in December shows that the pests are spreading in town and moving steadily inland.

Poore said Whitney Tree would use a mist sprayer that would “create less puddling and dripping” that specifically targets the browntail caterpillar and is not instantly harmful to other insects.

He said the goal was to make the spraying program as friendly as possible to beneficial pollinators such as bees.

Whitney Tree will not spray trees that are in blossom and will spray in the overnight and early morning hours when bees are dormant, Poore said.

Poore told councilors that they should also hope for “a wet soggy spring, which is very bad for browntail caterpillars.”

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