They appear nice and cuddly, but you don’t want to touch them! Puss caterpillars may appear soft and cuddly, yet their sting is more severe than that of bees, jellyfish, or even scorpions. Ouch!
From Florida to North Carolina, curious young children have reported agonizing agony after coming into touch with the most toxic caterpillar in the United States.
The bug, known as asp caterpillars (Megalopyge opercularis), is also known as southern flannel moths, puss moths, and tree asps. The caterpillar may be found across North America, and numbers appear to be increasing in southern states such as Florida, South Texas, and Georgia.
Adult asp caterpillars emerge in late spring or early summer to lay hundreds of eggs on preferred host trees such as oaks, pecans, elms, hackberries, and others.
They like to live on trees, although they may also be found in brush and shrubs.
Their “furry” skin conceals tiny deadly spines that spear predators and inject excruciating venom.
The sting causes intense, excruciating agony that feels like it reaches all the way to the bone. According to others, the agony might travel all the way up their arm and last up to 12 hours.
Headaches, nausea, vomiting, lymphadenopathy, lymphadenitis, and, in rare cases, shock or respiratory stress are other symptoms.