Last year around this time, we had one of our employees develop quite a rash after going on a bike ride through the woods here in Maine.  It was annoying for him to deal with but it could have been a lot worse.

It is called 'Brown Moth Itch' or 'Brown Moth Rash.' The picture above is the staffer who   developed the rash after a ride in the Augusta area. He thinks the rash was developed after his arms rubbed against leaves on his ride.

The rash comes from the poison held on the hairs of the Browntail Moth caterpillar, which we learned about last year as an invasive species for Maine, according to the Maine CDC.

Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Maine Forest Service

These caterpillars are active from April to late June but the hairs of the caterpillar remain poisonous throughout the summer, so you could still have a reaction well after the caterpillar dies or transforms into a moth.

Other symptoms of contact include respiratory issues if you happen to inhale airborne hairs.

The insect has crept its way up from the Cape Cod region in Massachusetts up to the Maine coast, including the towns of Brunswick and Falmouth. More sightings are being found inland as the caterpillar makes its way inland. Here is a map, provided by the Maine Forest Service, showing places in Maine at risk of exposure to this insect for 2019:

Screenshot from Maine.Gov

The Bangor region has a few areas of noting for exposure risk for the Browntail Moth caterpillar including:

HIGH RISK

  • Eddington

MODERATE RISK

  • Orrington
  • Bucksport
  • Surry
  • Searsport
  • Belfast

LOW RISK:

  • Bangor
  • Towns east of Bangor including Carmel, Etna, Newport, Dixmont, Palmyra,
  • Towns in Downeast, including Dedham, Orland, Penobscot, Castine, Blue Hill, Ellsworth, Waltham, Trenton

For more information and resources about the Browntail Moth caterpillar, see the Maine CDC webpage about the insect.