Weather delays browntail moth spraying in Falmouth

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FALMOUTH — A plan to begin spraying this week for browntail moths along public streets has been delayed due to the cold spring.

Lower-than-usual temperatures have meant trees are not in full bud yet, a requirement for effective pest control, officials said.

The goal of the spraying program, according to town officials, is to combat an infestation of moths that have begun affecting large swaths of town from the ocean to the Middle and Longwoods roads area.

A post on the town website said the spraying, “originally scheduled to begin on or around May 1 … has been delayed … due to the cold weather conditions. Spraying cannot take place until there are leaves on the trees.”

A dedicated page on the website detailing the spraying program, including frequently asked questions and how to opt out, will be updated with a new spraying schedule as soon as the contractor decides it’s alright to get going, Assistant Town Manager Amy Lamontagne said this week.

“This schedule will (also) be kept updated during spraying so affected residents can be prepared for when their street will be treated,” the post on the town website added.

The town has hired Whitney Tree Service to spray a chemical called Conserve SC from the roadway with a truck-mounted mist blower to treat infested trees.

“Only those trees located in the public right of way that have nests will be sprayed as part of this project. Property owners with nests on other parts of their property will need to (privately) hire a qualified contractor,” the website said.

Lamontagne said once spraying has begun, it should take no more than “a few days. Everything should be done in one week.” She said the town hopes to begin spraying by mid-May, but the date is subject to change based on weather conditions.

Right now, she said, “we’re approximately two weeks behind in the growing cycle, … (that’s why we’re ) referring residents to the website for additional information.”

Overall, “The town’s goal is to preserve the health of the street trees and to minimize public health effects of browntail moth caterpillars,” Lamontagne said, which can include respiratory distress and a painful rash.

The spraying program “will not fully eradicate browntail moths in Falmouth (and) only those trees infested by (the) moths will be sprayed,” the town website said. The trees most typically affected include oaks and apple trees, along with some birches and poplars.

Once the spraying commences, it will take place only during the early morning hours, typically between 4 and 7:30 a.m., according to the town website.

In addition, “only those trees located within, or whose canopy is located within, the public right of way will be sprayed. Generally, the right of way extends approximately 15 feet from the edge of the road pavement,” the website said.

During the spraying program “common sense precautions are all that is needed,” according to the website.

“Keep windows closed, pets and animals inside, and don’t leave your laundry hanging on the line overnight. The mist will dry quickly, within two hours of the spray being applied, and (then) it will be safe to go outside.”

“Unfortunately, the mist sprayer is quite loud. The good news is that it will pass quickly and each area will only need to be treated once,” the website said.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

This map shows where the town of Falmouth will be spraying for browntail moths, when the weather cooperates.

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