Falmouth to increase spraying, spending against browntail moth

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FALMOUTH — A recent inventory of browntail moth winter nests indicates that the infestation has spread.

Lucas Tree Experts, which provided the most recent scouting report on the moths, said areas in town identified as being high risk have expanded.

As a result, the company is recommending the town include an additional 8 miles of roadway in this year’s spraying program.

Expanding the treatment area will cost the town $41,000, a significant increase over the $30,000 Falmouth appropriated in spring 2018 to control the pest, Town Manager Nathan Poore told the Town Council Monday.

Councilors voted unanimously to spend the funds.

Last spring was the first time Falmouth sprayed for browntail moths in more than a decade. The problem had become so acute the town felt it had no choice, Poore said at the time.

Browntail moth caterpillars are harmful to the environment because they can kill trees, and are a threat to human health because their toxic hairs can cause breathing problems and painful rashes, according to the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry.

As it did last May, Falmouth will spray for the moths along public streets and rights of way, mostly in the northeastern part of town. But the spraying will also move inland to Middle Road and neighborhoods on the Cumberland town line.

New roads included in this year’s spraying program include Depot Road, Falmouth Road, Bucknam Road, Merrill Road and U.S. Route 1 south from Foreside Road to Maine Audubon, according to the Lucas Tree report.

Private property owners in these areas who wish to also address the browntail moth problem will have to hire their own contractors.

A proposal by Poore last summer for a more regional approach to combating the moth did not materialize.

Last August he suggested that the towns of Falmouth, Freeport, Cumberland, Yarmouth and Brunswick could declare the browntail moth a public health nuisance, which could have allowed aerial spraying.

The Yarmouth Town Council is expected to vote on its own browntail moth plan at its meeting on Thursday, Feb. 28, when it is expected some councilors will express concerns about generalized spraying.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 780-9097 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

The hairs of the browntail moth catepillar are toxic to humans, which is why Falmouth will be spraying again this spring to combat the pest.

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