Browntail moth nests are seen on shrubs in Brewer in this Jan. 21, 2021 file photo. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

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Referring to the City of Bangor meeting a couple of weeks ago about the city’s response plan for browntail moth and the potential use of pesticides, considering that one of the primary host trees for brown tailed moth is oak, using pesticides on these trees would have enormous implications for wildlife. Oak trees are host plants for over 500 species of butterfly and moth (meaning that the caterpillars of these species eat the leaves in the spring and early summer). These caterpillars in turn are used by countless bird species to feed their young (caterpillars, being soft, squishy and full of protein, are perfect baby bird food). Many other tree species are host plants as well for butterflies and moths, including cherry, maple and more.

Pesticides that target browntail moth caterpillars are likely to target soft bodied insects like caterpillars in general, so are not likely to discriminate between browntail moths and other moths and butterflies. Insects and birds alike are currently undergoing death by a thousand cuts, including habitat loss, pollution, climate change, and pressure from other invasive species. Widespread use of pesticides on the trees they rely on will just be one more cut, putting another nail in their coffin.

While I understand the public health threat from browntail moths, we also need to look at the public health threat from the loss of beneficial insect species, including vital pollinators, as well as birds, which help eat and control pest insects.

Rachel Smith