Saturday, October 24, 2020

Puss Caterpillars

If you are outdoors in the woods taking a walk, taking pictures, walking your dog, or just enjoying the briskness of autumn, you might see a small hairy something on a tree, a bush, or the ground that looks like a slow moving mouse or a small section of a bad toupee.

If you do see this thing, it's probably not a good idea to pick it up or to let it touch you. See this is something called a puss caterpillar, the larval stage of the southern flannel moth. And for some reason God and/or Mother Nature saw fit to grant this two inch long creature toxins which can cause extremely painful reactions in much larger mammals such as humans. I guess that is one way of ensuring that the larva survives to become a moth. 

First, it was murder hornets. Now it’s stinging caterpillars. As if there wasn’t enough to worry about in 2020, foresters in Virginia are warning that if you see a caterpillar that looks like a wig on a tree, don’t touch it. The Virginia Department of Forestry said it had received reports of hairy-looking puss caterpillars in eastern Virginia. Its hairs are attached to a poisonous gland, said Eric Day, of Virginia Tech’s Insect Identification Lab. Touching it could cause a painful reaction, the severity of which can vary, Mr. Day said. Other symptoms can include pain that comes in waves, a rash, fever, muscle cramps or swollen glands, according to the University of Michigan


Symptoms should be monitored and people who are stung should use their own judgment about seeking medical attention, Mr. Day said. In people with severe reactions, “you’d think it was a much bigger critter,” Mr. Day said. 

It’s also known as the southern flannel moth, but this caterpillar’s moth stage is nothing to worry about, Mr. Day said. “The larva of this species is entirely covered by a thick carpet of long grayish-tan to dark brown hairs with a rusty stripe down the center of the back” and over all resembles a tiny mouse, Virginia Tech said in a fact sheet about the caterpillar. 

In September, a New Kent County, Va., woman said she felt a pain in her right leg from a puss caterpillar after she reached into her car, The Daily Progress reported. She went to an emergency room, and it took three days for her to feel normal again. “It felt exactly like a scorching-hot knife passing through the outside of my calf,” said the woman, Crystal Spindel Gaston. “Before I looked down to see where it came from, I thought 100 percent, I was going to see a big piece of metal, super sharp, sticking out from my car.”
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