The Itch Is Back: Tussock Caterpillars Are Coming Out In Maine
I think back in March, the conversation about the 2021 browntail moth caterpillar began. There were all sorts of predictions about how this season was going to fare, based on conditions over the winter. It seemed like the winter was setting us up for a big-time season of misery, and "they" were right. Whoever they are.
This year was bad enough, that towns and cities around Maine are taking active steps to try and mitigate, if not totally eradicate Browntails in our area. Bangor is taking aggressive steps to get the issue under control, including rolling out a plan in the fall to identify the locations of nests and remove them.
This part of summer, brings some relief from the dreaded BTM's, as the adults are unable to produce hairs that cause the rash. But, there's another little fuzzy jerk that is just starting to come out for the season, and that's the hickory tussock moth caterpillar. These little critters are very familiar to us here in Maine.
I remember seeing these around all through my childhood and being told by anyone that saw me within 100 feet of one, to stay away from them. And you never forget those markings, because I always thought they looked like they could be coming or going because they look kind of the same, front to back.
Here in Maine, they start to come out in July and stick around until September. At that point, they nestle into their cocoons for the winter, and then pop out in early summer, to begin laying eggs, and making more little caterpillars. Then, of course, the vicious cycle starts all over again.
Actually, it kinda starts sooner than that. With the tussocks, their cocoons also can cause a rash. So you'll want to look out when your raking leaves and such because that's where they live, is in the leaves on the ground. Basically, it's just another case of Mother Nature making sure we never get a break from scratching ourselves.
The rash is very similar to BTM rash and is more susceptible in children because the darn things are so fuzzy and cute. Especially compared to browntail moth caterpillars which are pretty drab and ugly. These little tussocks practically beg to be picked up and cuddled. Just fight the urge, hahaha.
You'll see these buggers more and more as the rest of summer rolls on, so start looking out for them now. You may never thank me for this information, but now you have it. If it's not Browntails, it's tussocks, or swimmer's itch, or god knows what else. But it is summer in Maine, and that will always mean something itches.