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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Preparing for the Browntail’s

An interesting headline caught my eye as I happen to live within the affected area, and I began to wonder; how often do we take into account when planning for the coming times the once in a blue moon problems that can cause serious problems because we failed to address those same problems in our emergency and disaster planning?

Take these Browntailed moth caterpillars in the following story:

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP)The Maine Forest Service is warning residents in five towns to be alert to widespread infestations of Browntail moth caterpillars. Officials say the caterpillars are most prevalent in Topsham, Bath, West Bath, Brunswick and Bowdoinham. Forest service entomologist Charlene Donahue says the caterpillar is toxic and can leave people with poison ivy-like skin rashes or respiratory problems…

A seemingly innocuous insect can do a good job at waylaying our plans when we least expect it, and if we haven't prepared for the occasion, we could be in for a rough time of it. Here's what the State of Maine has to say about the issue:


The browntail moth caterpillar has tiny (0.15mm) poisonous hairs capable of causing a dermatitis similar to poison ivy on sensitive individuals. People may develop the dermatitis or skin rash directly from contact with the larvae or indirectly from contact with airborne hairs. The hairs become airborne either from being dislodged from living or dead larvae or may be associated with the cast skins which result from larval molting. Most people affected by the hairs develop a localized rash which will last for a few hours up to a few days, but on some sensitive individuals the rash can be severe and persist for weeks. The rash results from both a chemical reaction to a toxin in the setae and a physical irritation as the barbed setae become embedded in the skin. Respiratory distress from inhaling the hairs has been reported (11% of the population in one health survey) and can be very serious.

The following precautions may help people living in or visiting browntail moth infested areas during the period from June through August:

Avoid places heavily infested by caterpillars when possible. Campers should plan their stays on uninfested islands.

Take a cool shower and change clothes after any activity that might involve contact with the browntail moth hairs.

Dry laundry inside during June and July to avoid the hairs becoming impregnated in the clothing.

Wear respirator, goggles and coveralls tightly closed at neck, wrists and ankles when performing activities that stir up caterpillar hairs such as:

weed whacking
removing pupal webbing from eaves and boats

Contact with the hairs can be minimized doing task such as above by working on damp days or wetting down materials with a hose or damp cloth as moisture helps keep the hairs from becoming airborne.

Use caution cleaning debris left by the caterpillars because the toxin is extremely stable and remains a hazard for a number of years. Summer residents should bear this in mind when opening cottages that have been closed all winter as the hairs frequently settle over the winter and may be contacted during spring cleaning. Wet mopping prior to vacuuming or dusting is recommended.

Consult your physician if you develop a severe reaction to the Browntail moth.

Be aware that chances of contacting the hairs are increased during dry windy conditions.


When we look at our preparedness plans, make sure you include suitable precautions against the insect world and the harm they may cause to us. Poisonous bugs abound, and many times we are not even aware of their presence. We generally think about spiders, scorpions, centipedes and so on, but a tiny little caterpillar? You can go here for the low down on symptoms and find out whether you've made contact with the little buggers and what to do about it.

The poisonous hairs act as a defense against being a food source, but the end result for we humans is that severe rashes and breathing problems become the result of coming into contact. Benadryl and other anti-histamines can work to alleviate some of the symptoms and there are a few creams that will work on the rash end of the problem. However, when we have to evacuate into uncharted territory, or even just working around our survival homestead, which may be little more than a weekend place for some of us, we really need to be aware that there is always some unseen factor that can screw up our highly tuned plans.

So, realize that it isn't just the big one, the super societal melt down, or whatever catastrophe you feel may happen that we need to prepare for, it's all the hundreds of mundane little thinks that rarely even come to mind that we need to prepare for as well.

MainePreppersNetwork.com Est. Jan 17, 2009 All contributed articles owned and protected by their respective authors and protected by their copyright. Maine Preppers Network is a trademark protected by American Preppers Network Inc. All rights reserved. No content or articles may be reproduced without explicit written permission.