In a May 2016 photo provided by the Maine Forest Service, a browntail caterpillar feeds on a plant, in Maine. Credit: Courtesy of Maine Forest Service ACF

AUGUSTA, Maine— Maine will use a new fund to help cities and towns try to control the spread of invasive moth that causes an itchy rash.

The browntail moth is a pest in Maine, where the hairs of its caterpillars cause rashes and respiratory problems for unlucky residents and visitors. The moth has also defoliated tens of thousands of acres of forest.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills has signed a bill to create a fund for municipalities and nonprofit groups to use to reduce moth populations. The fund is slated to start with $150,000 in the 2022-23 fiscal year.

Communities and groups could use the money for mitigation work such as hiring arborists and pesticide applicators and renting equipment to clip down moth nests.

Democratic Rep. Allison Hepler said the pests “have an impact on our environmental and personal health and without mitigation efforts, could begin to impact our tourism economy.”