WATERVILLE — The city has collected data from three sources to identify the locations of browntail moth infestations and is preparing to begin efforts to eliminate the invasive species’ nests.

The data comes from a survey done by Bartlett Tree Experts of about 700 trees on city property, a survey of about 300 residents and a document received Thursday from the state, according to City Councilor Thomas Klepach, D-Ward 3, who is heading up the browntail infestation effort.

Severe infestations can be found along Quarry Road, off North Street; Veterans Memorial Park on Park Street, near downtown; around Waterville Junior High School, off West River Road; and along the west side of First Rangeway, off Kennedy Memorial Drive.

Neighborhoods near the former Seton Hospital, off Lincoln Street, and the area between Messalonskee Stream, Sunset Terrace and Morrill Avenue also have heavy infestations.

“My goal is to come up with a streamlined process where we can try to keep some of this infestation down,” Klepach said.

Poisonous hairs shed by browntail moth caterpillars cause rashes on humans similar to those caused by poison ivy. If inhaled, the airborne hairs can cause respiratory issues in those with sensitivities.

Advertisement

When in the larval or caterpillar stage, browntails feed on the foliage of hardwood trees and shrubs, including oak, shadbush, apple, cherry, beach plum and rugosa rose, according to the Maine Forest Service. Such feeding can curb growth and cause trees and shrubs to die.

Klepach, a faculty member in the biology department at Colby College, has been working with Bartlett officials and Matt Skehan, director of both the Public Works and Parks & Recreation departments.

Klepach urged city officials last June to address the problem, and the City Council voted unanimously to allocate $100,000 to the effort. Councilors declared the browntail scourge a public emergency and said public health and safety must be preserved.

Waterville has spent about $15,000 on the Bartlett inventory, and is expected to spend about $5,000 on tree inserts and on pole saws that are to be kept at the Waterville Public Library for residents to use to remove browntail moth nests from their trees.

The city plans to contract with a licensed arborist for manual removal of nests on city property, and public works crews will not be doing any manual removal, according to Klepach.

Over the next several weeks, crews will drill nonflowering, nonfruiting and ornamental trees to prepare them for injections. Fruit and flowering trees on city property that are too large for manual removal are to be sprayed with an organic substance.

Advertisement

The city plans to contact residents who completed the survey to ask if they are open to having inserts put into their trees, Klepach said. Those residents must have submitted contact information and asked for help, he said.

“We’ll contact them when trucks are rolling out to let people know they had requested it and the city is ready to go to their property and administer some treatment for them,” Klepach said. “The homeowner should be there, if possible, to help guide the city in what trees they were speaking of when they filled out the survey.”

Residents can continue to complete surveys via a link on the city’s website, www.waterville-me.gov, which also maintains information about the browntail moths and the city’s efforts to eradicate it.

The city plans to hold a workshop on browntail moths that would be open to the public and posted online afterward.

Klepach is scheduled to speak March 3 to MaineGeneral Medical Center staff members about the browntail moth issue, which is also to be recorded and posted.

In a related matter, Waterville officials, including council Chairwoman Rebecca Green, D-Ward 4, have recognized Klepach for his volunteer service on what she called a serious issue.

“I think we’re all very grateful for the role you’re taking in this region and the state, frankly, on addressing the issue, so thank you very much,” Green said last week at a City Council meeting.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.