Maine officials say a steady rise in the numbers of spruce budworm caught in traps along the Canadian border is cause for concern in the forest industry.

Northeastern States Research Cooperative

State entomologists say the defoliating insect, also known as the army worm and tent caterpillar, has the potential for an outbreak over vast regions of commercially valuable spruce-fit forests. They say Quebec's infestation encompasses 15.6 million acres, and the pest has spread south onto the Gaspe Peninsula and toward Maine.

State Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Commissioner Walt Whitcomb says his agency has been tracking the budworm by expanding the program used to determine its potential spread and impact. He says the agency is also working closely with stakeholders on a plan to minimize damage to forests if a major outbreak does occur.

The Northeastern States Research Cooperative has since 2010 collected data for a long-range study on the impact of potential spruce budworm infestation in Maine through the year 2050.