Friday, June 24, 2016

A Most Unwelcome Immigrant

We are all God's creatures, that much cannot be disputed. But some of us were made on a a day when God was in a good mood, possibly a Friday, while others were obviously made on a Monday at the start of a grim work week when He was not yet up to speed despite his preceding rest the day before. (I hope this is not the case with my orthopedic surgeon since my upcoming hip surgery is scheduled for first thing on a Monday morning.) 

Anyway, the browntail moth caterpillar is surely a Monday creation. It's bad through and through, and this year in Maine things are even worse than usual with double the population of the little buggers, something about last winter being relatively mild. (A clear example of how there's no such thing as a free lunch.) 

What makes them suck so much are their invisible-to-the-naked-eye poisonous hairs that cause a blistery, itchy skin rash on sensitive individuals. This is a result of either direct contact with the caterpillar or from contact with their airborne hairs, which are dislodged from the living or dead caterpillars or from cast-off skins when the caterpillar molts. Put plainly, the damn hairs are everywhere there are trees, and if you've ever been to Maine you know we have plenty of those.

Most people develop a localized rash that can last for a few hours up to several days, but on some sensitive individuals the rash can be severe and last for several weeks or longer, as the barbed hairs become embedded in the skin. Respiratory distress from inhaling the hairs has been reported and can be serious, especially affecting people with asthma. These days an annoying cough can be heard throughout the state.

Which reminds me, we coughed up $250 early this spring to spray for the moths on our property. Almost all of our neighbors did the same, so we are living in a somewhat safe zone on our street. Alas, many things cause me to leave our street, for example going to buy food or see the dentist or dine out or go to a movie or to the doctor or to visit family or to pick up the dry cleaning -- you know, living my life. Being a sensitive type I currently itch from head to toe all the time and have for weeks, except when I'm in the shower or sleeping.

Not a native, the invasive browntail moth arrived in the United States in the 1880s in a shipment of roses from Europe. They then spread through Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and Nova Scotia before the population collapsed, and are now only found in North America on the coast of Maine. They obviously have never heard Maine's state motto, The Way Life Should Be, 'cause this sure ain't it.

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