Browntail moth caterpillars and an abundance of dog ticks made late spring pretty tough here in Maine. But these pests aren’t the only ones to expect this summer.
While you can’t completely avoid these pests outdoors, knowing what you’re dealing with can limit your exposure. Knowing this can also help you treat any bites, rashes, or other allergic reactions that they may cause.
From those that are just bothersome to those that cause potential health problems, here are six pests to look out for this summer.
Brown-tailed moth caterpillars
Brown-tailed moth caterpillars, as seen here, come down from the trees and pose health risks, according to the Maine Centers for Disease Control. Credit: Courtesy Maine CDC
This summer is turning out to be the worst for the invasive browntail moth caterpillar since it arrived in Maine a century ago.
With the brown-tailed moth activity in all 16 Maine counties, many people across the state experience the poison ivy-like rash, or shortness of breath, caused by the poisonous hair of the caterpillars.
Fortunately, most allergic reactions can be treated with over-the-counter drugs. Maine pharmacies can also make doctor-prescribed compounds for more severe reactions.
Ticks are on the move in Maine, especially dog ticks, the number of which has been reported well above last year’s number. A dog tick, on the right, is twice the size of the Lyme disease-bearing deer tick seen on the left. Image Credit: Courtesy Griffin Dill
Last summer’s dry conditions followed by a mild winter contributed to an explosion in Maine’s canine tick population. According to experts at the University of Maine, dog ticks are considered an annoying pest that causes reactions ranging from minor itching to localized pain.
This is very different from the severity of a bite from another tick found in Maine – the Lyme disease-transmitting deer tick. So far, the deer tick population in Maine shows no year-over-year increase.
To protect yourself outdoors, experts recommend using an insect repellent that contains DEET, long pants in socks and long-sleeved shirts with tight cuffs or clothing that has been treated with permethrin. Some people also use a trick of tape to trap ticks before they have a chance to bite. Any trip outside should be followed by a full-body tick check when you’re back inside.
An adult black fly that feeds on a human. Image Credit: Courtesy Griffin Dill
Anyone who has spent the summer outside in the Maine woods has undoubtedly seen clouds of tiny winged black flies. The state is home to 48 different species of this biting pest, jokingly known as the Maine State Bird.
Reactions to black fly bites range from an annoying itchy bump to more serious reactions like swollen lymph nodes and difficulty breathing. The black flies life cycle requires running water, so they are often found near streams and rivers. They actively eat and bite during the day.
In order not to become a moving black fly proof, you can use chemical insect repellants and wear light colored clothing that doesn’t seem to attract the flies like darker colors.
An adult mosquito prepares to feed on a human. Image Credit: Courtesy Griffin Dill
Occasionally, the biting insects in Maine may work shifts. Because when the black flies become inactive at night, mosquitoes seem to take their place. Of the more than 40 species of mosquitoes in Maine, about half feed on human blood.
Mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn, when temperatures are above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. They’re a nuisance when they swarm around you and can leave you with an itchy welt when you bite. But they also pose serious health threats as carriers of Eastern Equine Encephalitis and the West Nile Virus.
Wearing long sleeved shirts and pants and using an insect repellent can help reduce exposure.
Deer flies are the largest, fastest, and nastiest flying pest in Maine. Image Credit: Courtesy Griffin Dill
When it comes to flying pests, few are as big or as feared by outdoor enthusiasts as the deer fly. Also known as the moose fly, these biting insects can grow up to an inch and a half in length.
Deer flies use their scissor-like mouthparts to cut into your skin so they can lick your blood. The bite is painful and leaves a large, itchy mark. They are among the fastest of all flying insects, so don’t even try to escape them. This just seems to piss off a deer fly that just follows you as it circles around and bounces off your head.
These flies are sight hunters who are attracted to movement, so insect repellants – which rely on fragrances – have no effect. You will be attracted to dark colors, so it is recommended to avoid dark clothing. There’s good news – deer fly larvae feed on mosquito larvae, so that’s how it is.
Fine-meshed nets over window bars or in tents are one of the only ways to avoid small mosquitoes. Photo credit: Julia Bayly / BDN
Biting mosquitoes in Maine are commonly referred to as no-see-ums because of their small size. They are so small that they can easily fly through most window grilles. You may not even notice them until you feel a tiny sting like a sting on your skin.
Fortunately, this brief discomfort is usually the only reaction associated with a mosquito bite, but when there are enough of them it can be extremely annoying. They are most active and feed at dusk.
Chemical insect repellants have little effect on mosquitoes. Instead, you can prevent them from entering by covering your window grilles with fine-meshed netting. Aside from that, the most effective way to avoid getting bitten is by planning your outdoor activities to avoid the peak hours.