This 2017 photo by Holland Haverkamp shows a browntail moth caterpillar in Maine. Credit: Holland Haverkamp / UMaine via AP

Mainers are being warned to check their vehicles for browntail moth caterpillars seeking to hitch a ride this summer.

Browntail moth caterpillars, which cause an uncomfortable, itchy rash reaction when touched, can become “expert hitchhikers,” at this time of year into late June, according to the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

If browntail moth caterpillars seeking to catch a ride on vehicles, ATV’s, boats and other recreational equipment are not eliminated, they can spread an outbreak of the irritating critters to other parts of the state.

If you find a browntail moth caterpillar on your equipment before leaving a different area, such as a campground, the moth can be left at the site or killed. If you find a caterpillar on your equipment once returning home, the insect needs to be killed before it can spread across your property.

To kill a browntail moth caterpillar, you can either dump them into soapy water or freeze them.

Currently, the worst of the browntail moth outbreaks are located in south-central Maine, with the worst outbreaks located in the Augusta area, according to officials tracking the species.

To avoid picking up unwanted critters, Mainers are urged to be aware of where they are parking or leaving equipment, as caterpillars can drop from infested trees.

Leela Stockley is an alumna of the University of Maine. She was raised in northern Maine, and loves her cat Wesley, her puppy Percy and staying active in the Maine outdoors.