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Browntail Moth Trap Experiment Conducted In Infested Areas
AUGUSTA, Maine (June 22, 2001) Two bureaus within the Department of Conservation - the Maine Forest Service and the Bureau of Parks and Lands - are combining resources to combat the insect pest, the browntail moth. The area of infestation begins around Yarmouth and subsides in Harpswell. Browntail moth caterpillars pose a health risk to residents who may develop a rash, or respiratory problems from inhaling the insects’ hairs. An experiment is being conducted this season to see if traps that cover male moths with female pheromone will add a non-pesticide tool in the arsenal of weapons used against this pest.
The Maine Forest Service is working with Dr. Philip Howse and Dr. Karen Underwood of Southampton University, England, to set the male hormone disruption traps that lure male moths with a powder containing the female hormone. When the male moths exit the traps, they cannot find females because they are covered with the female pheromone. The mating disruption trap, developed by Dr. Howse, has proved successful in England for the past three years. Maine Forest Service Entomologist Dick Bradbury and Dr. Underwood have set traps at Cliff Island in Casco Bay and at Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park in Freeport.
This season, Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park in Freeport has been infested with the BTM caterpillars, resulting in the cancellation of interpretive talks to school groups and the public. To alert visitors about the potential risks related to the caterpillar exposure at Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park, BPL staff posted signs in May and continue to personally greet visitors at the park entrance. According to their records, less than 10% of the park’s visitors turn away after hearing about the infestation. Popham Beach State Park in Phippsburg and Eagle Island State Historic Site in Casco Bay are the only other state facilities impacted by the moths, but those infestations are relatively minor compared to the Wolfe’s Neck Woods situation.
To avoid exposure to the hairs, people are encouraged to wear long sleeves, long pants, and hats. Generally, the moth population should subside by mid-July. If visitors have developed sensitivity to the hairs, they should avoid future contact with the caterpillars. If the symptoms are severe, consult a physician for assistance. Information about the browntail moth is located on the Internet at www.state.me.us/doc/mfs
The Department of Conservation is comprised of four bureaus, the Maine Forest Service, Bureau of Parks and Lands, Land Use Regulation Commission and the Bureau of Geology and Natural Areas.
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