Tick season already sucks, but browntails aren't far behind.

It's that time of year... I've pulled so many ticks off my dog already this year, that I lost track a long time ago. Pretty much as soon as the snow cleared in the last week of March, there they were. And in serious numbers too. But as the days get warmer, there's another crappy little parasite we need to start watching for.

Yup, it's almost Browntail Moth Caterpillar season. As soon as those fuzzy jerks come out, it's nothing but rashes for weeks. If you haven't had it yet, it's like poison ivy, only you'll never know you have it until it's too late. And it's hard to avoid because the little creeps are everywhere. And, time is running out. They start to become active by mid-April. But there's one last chance to try and mitigate them a bit.

In your trees, especially fruit trees, look for these sad-looking leaves.

You may look around your yard and see that some of your trees, especially fruit trees, have a few weird, scraggly-looking leaves still on it, with a bit of white towards the base of the stem. If you see these, get rid of them. Those are the little nest/egg clutches from which the caterpillars will soon be hatching. And there's a safe way to do it, according to the Maine Dept. of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry.

Photo JStew
Photo JStew

First, make sure you're wearing long sleeves, gloves, and safety goggles. Next, snip the leaf off carefully with some trimmers, or if there are several of these nests on a branch, clip off that branch. Then, takes those clippings and soak them in soapy water. After a good soak, about 48 hours, throw them away. DO NOT BURN THEM. This is key. Burning is baaaaaad.

Here's why you don't just build a big fire and toss them in...

The reason fire is bad, is because when the nest is burning, it makes all the hairs on the babies go airborne. When that happens, you can accidentally breathe in the hairs, and that can cause big-time problems in your lungs and ability to breathe. You could easily end up in the hospital, or at the very least, be the most uncomfortable you've ever been in your life.

You think that rash sucks on your skin, imagine having it inside your body. Ugh. I've never known anyone it happened to, but the rash is awful. Just awful. So think twice about how you handle these buggers. They're harmless as adults, but those youngins' will mess you up.

Thank the lord people smarter than me are trying to get to the bottom of all this...

University of Maine Researchers Doing Browntail Moth Study

This pilot study is determining if pheromones could be the key to disrupting the Maine pests population and help reduce the infestation across the State of Maine. Ultimately, this research could be the large scale answer to dealing with the Browntail Moth problem here in the state.

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