AUGUSTA — Public health authorities in Maine are asking residents to be cautious while performing fall yardwork because of the presence of an irritating pest.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention says Mainers need to take caution because of browntail moth caterpillars, which shed tiny hairs that can cause an irritating skin reaction similar to poison ivy.

The caterpillars are active from April to early summer. However, their hairs remain in the environment and it’s possible to stir them up by doing yardwork.

The hairs can also lead to respiratory problems.

Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah says the hairs “remain toxic and in the environment for one to three years,” so they can cause irritation even when the caterpillars themselves aren’t noticeable.

People with questions can contact 211 Maine to speak to a specialist about browntail moth biology, management, pesticide options, health concerns, reducing toxic hair exposure, and potential public policy and economic impacts.

Those looking for more information about browntail moths can call 211 (866-811-5695), text their ZIP code to 898-211 or email [email protected]

A browntail moth caterpillar Maine CDC photo

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