Small caterpillar hairs may cause itchy problem when doing fall yardwork

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention is warning those embarking on fall yard cleanup: Be careful and watch for tiny caterpillar hairs.

Specifically, the health department is warning about the hairs of the browntail moth caterpillar. The insects shed the hairs while they are active from April through early summer, The Associated Press reported.

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But the hairs can still be toxic for up to three years, experts say.

They can cause skin irritation that feels like a poison ivy reaction and even respiratory problems for some people, the AP reported.

The moth is an invasive species found along the coasts of Maine and Massachusetts, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's U.S. Forest Service.

The caterpillars can cause large, even complete, defoliation, the Forest Service said.

The department is trying to develop a baculovirus to control the population of the browntail moth.

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