Gov. Janet Mills signs into law Rep. Allison Hepler’s bill to help combat browntail moths in Maine. From right to left: Emily Horton, Rep. Jessica Fay, D-Raymond, Commissioner Amanda Beal, Gov. Janet Mills, Rep. Allison Hepler, D-Woolwich, Rep. Denise Tepler, D-Topsham, and Allison Kanoti. Photo contributed by Olivia Watson

On May 3, Gov. Janet Mills signed into law a bill sponsored by a Woolwich lawmaker to provide $150,000 to support Maine communities in their fight against the swelling browntail moth population.

“I’ve heard from so many constituents who have been affected by the growing browntail moth population in our state,” said bill sponsor Rep. Allison Hepler, D-Woolwich, in a news release. “These pests have an impact on our environmental and personal health and without mitigation efforts, could begin to impact our tourism economy.”

Browntail moths are an invasive species that defoliate trees and health complications for humans, including rash or respiratory problems caused by the creature’s small hairs.

“The rash results from both a chemical reaction to a toxin in the hairs and a physical irritation as the barbed hairs become embedded in the skin. Respiratory distress from inhaling the hairs can be serious.” according to the Maine Centers for Disease Control.

The browntail moth caterpillars are active from April to late June and their hairs remain toxic throughout the summer. Eventually the hairs will get washed into the ground soil and become less of a nuisance over time, according to the CDC.

Last year, the Maine Forest Service reported that over 198,000 acres of forest had been defoliated by browntail moths, removing leaves from plants, trees and large areas of land. Browntail moths have proven to be more detrimental in some areas of Maine more than others.


Falmouth Town Manager Nathan Poore said the browntail moth infestation has been light the last two years.  Prior to 2020, each year Falmouth would spend $50,000 to spray for moths, curbside and on public properties, he said.

Topsham Assistant Town Manager Mark Waltz said Topsham does not spray for browntail moths.

Last June, the Waterville Town Council declared a citywide infestation of browntail moths, a public health emergency, according to a 2021 article in the Morning Sentinel.

Waterville conducted a survey in February 2022 asking residents about browntail moth activity on their perspective properties. Out of the 298 residents that took the survey, 211 of them said they had browntail moths on their land and 204 of them identified it as a severe infestation.

Two months later, the Waterville City Council voted to allocate $100,000 to aid in depleting the browntail moth population, according to a 2022 article in the Morning Sentinel.

“I hope this bill will make it easier for communities across the state to tackle this problem together,” said Hepler.

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