Some insects that are attracted to your garden are benign and don’t pose a threat to humans. Others, however, may look cute and non-threatening, but are.
One insect that is causing problems is the puss caterpillar. The little critter is about 1-inch long, looks innocent and features a soft, furry body that persuades one to pet, especially children. Experts in the field of entomology warn that touching it will cause severe pain. It won’t kill you, but the pain is said to be similar to “a limb amputation.”
The Larval Of The Southern Flannel Moth
The puss caterpillar is the larval form of the Southern Flannel Moth, which appears in Maine through Florida in the eastern region of the U.S. and as far west as Arkansas, Missouri, and Texas. It has hundreds of hairs on its body that resemble kitten’s fur. So children are inclined to touch it.
What’s so threatening about the puss caterpillar is that each of those fluffy little hairs produces a sting. It’s also referred to as an asp caterpillar because the toxic venom it carries is similar to a snake bite.
Just lightly brushing the hairs will cause them to breakoff the critter and embed in the skin.
Of course, the obvious reaction is to pull the hairs out of the skin with your fingers. That’s not the right move. The venom sting will just transfer to the fingers and the hand. It is advised that you use tape, tweezers to remove them or scrape them off with the edge of a cardboard. Not only do you experience the pain of the initial sting, but swelling and redness of the infected area also occurs.
If you or your child gets stung, apply a cold compress and take pain medication and antihistamine.
Where and When Do The Puss Caterpillar Appear
The hosts plant for these pests are oak and elm trees.
When they first appear, the puss caterpillar features pale, yellowish fur. As it matures, the hairs darken and turn gray. If you’re not certain that the caterpillar you encounter is a puss, it’s best to just leave it alone.
The caterpillars appear in the fall season and generate at least two generations. So, it’s possible they are around into the early summer.
The Virginia Department of Forestry and the Entomology Department at Virginia Tech University have reported that there has been a spike of these critters in the commonwealth of Virginia.
Reaction to the sting differs between people. Some have a very severe reaction that requires medical attention while other have a milder reaction.
If a puss caterpillar stings you, monitor the sting. If symptoms get worse, go to a doctor’s office. Entomologists suggest that you take a picture of the insect to assist the doctor if it is necessary for additional medical care.
(Sources: davesgarden.com, pbs.org. and nytimes.com)