The browntail moth (Euproctis chrysorrhoea) is a distant cousin of the spongy moth (Lymantria dispar) that packs a powerful poison punch. As reported on Nature.com, browntail caterpillars not only strip foliage from shrubs and trees, they can cause rashes, respiratory problems and even death in the unlucky humans who touch them. Now that the browntail moth is making a reappearance in New England, scientists are fighting back by spraying trees with a mixture containing a high concentration of a baculovirus to kill the moths. The baculovirus was selected because it naturally infects the moths, and does not seem to adversely affect related species. For more information on this topic, there is a great feature from February 2003 at the MaineToday website about the browntail. Also, earlier this month the Invasive Species Weblog featured this post about a virus that targets the spongy moth.
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