WATERVILLE — Donning a hooded jacket, safety glasses and work gloves, City Councilor Thomas Klepach, D-Ward 3, used a long-handled pruning saw Wednesday to snip a browntail moth nest from a chokecherry tree and carefully guide it to the ground.

Klepach then plucked the small nest from the snow, placed it into a bucket containing soapy water and let it sit for a few minutes, before placing it into a plastic bag and sealing it.

Klepach was demonstrating how to clip a browntail moth nest from a tree to about 20 people who gathered outside the Waterville Public Library for a workshop he held with Matt Skehan, director of the city’s Public Works and Parks & Recreation departments.

Before demonstrating how to use a pruning saw, which those with library cards can borrow at no cost, Klepach pointed to the chokecherry tree across Elm Street, on the lawn of the First Baptist Church at 1 Park St. — the city’s oldest public building.

“You can see that tree is actually loaded,” he said. “There’s probably 50 to 80 nests in that tree.”

A biology professor at Colby College in Waterville, Klepach has led the charge to mitigate browntail moths in the city.


The browntail moth is an invasive species found almost exclusively in Maine and Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It can cause severe rashes and respiratory problems in humans, destroy trees and have a negative economic impact on communities, according to Klepach.

Browntail moths affect trees that drop their leaves in winter and prefer oak and apple trees, Klepach said.

The city has partnered with the Maine Forest Service, Colby scientists and Bartlett Tree Experts to gather data.

Waterville City Councilor Thomas Klepach, D-Ward 3, demonstrates Wednesday how to remove a browntail moth nest from a tree outside the First Baptist Church at 1 Park St. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Waterville officials plan to treat public lands first and then help treat 94 properties whose owners have completed a city survey and qualified for the assistance.

The survey is still on the city’s website and people are asked to fill it out, although mitigation help this year is not guaranteed.

Property owners can remove nests manually now, Klepach said. Bartlett will do pesticide injections on seven city trees, but the injections are costly so many trees will get inserts, which are more economical. Some trees are to be sprayed with organic spray. The city has bought thousands of inserts, and city crews will plug them into trees.


“There are over 500 properties or individual trees in need of treatment in the city,” Klepach said. “The city has the measles. It’s coated.”

Skehan said some of his crew members got the browntail moth rash last year, which he described as “horrible.”

“I feel like our plan for addressing this problem is responsible, and it’s going to help,” Skehan said.

Manual removal of the nests must be done now, before caterpillars emerge from their webs about the first of April. Inserts and injections are set for the end of March or beginning of April, according to Klepach.

Cindy Jacobs, president of the library’s board of trustees, described the workshop as helpful. She said along with the long-handled pruners, the library has browntail moth information available to the public.

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