Friday, May 22, 2015

browntail moth caterpillar

Went to a coastal state park today. I brought a murder mystery and New Age magazine and planned to spread out on a sunny rock and have a good read. I had my sun hat and reader sunglasses. Ready for sun and summer and a beach read. Waves, islands, and ospreys. Beach glass, shells, stones. Hikers, bird-watchers, tourists.

The ranger met me at the gate with an 8 x 10 glossy printed warning with colored illustrations. She spoke to me for 10 minutes about the high population and dangers of the browntail moth caterpillar. They generate toxic fibers. Said she was extremely sensitive to them and was on restricted duty. She spit a little when she spoke.

Said the caterpillars' fibers drift in the air and land on our skin; we breathe them in. Most people get a poison ivy-type rash, some experience trouble breathing, and a small percent go into anaphylaxis, (a hypersensitivity over-reaction of our immune system). She wore long gray pants; her tan long-sleeved ranger shirt was buttoned up to the neck. She had short coarse grey hair, stuck up from her head like the fuzz on a caterpillar.

Poisonous caterpillar hairs.

Said the risk will persist until July when they pupate, but that doesn't end the danger. It will take several good rainstorms to rinse the air and leaves. She shook a little. Keep your car windows closed, close your sunroof, if you have one. She inspected my car. No sunroof.

Go home and shower. Wash your clothes in very sudsy water. She spit again when she said sudsy.

Warned me not to linger under oak trees. Don't sit at picnic tables under oak trees. I looked up. We were in an oak forest.

I parked under an oak tree and jogged to the rocky beach. High tide. No itch, could still breathe, no throat-tightening. Was surviving so far. I walked out on the rocks. No people around anywhere. Wonder why. Saw the famous osprey settling into her/his flat nest at the top of a tall tree, on a near island. Looked at the islands, at the patches of blue sky. Still no itch.

Jogged back to my car.

Browntail moth  Euproctis chrysorrhoea (L.)