Beware the puss caterpillar

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Puss caterpillar (Donald W. Hall, Univ. of Florida)

HOLT, Fla., Oct. 21, 2019—Florida has its share of scary critters—venomous spiders, stinging insects, poisonous snakes.

Add the puss caterpillar to the list.

And it’s making a fall Florida appearance in some areas.

The puss caterpillars is one of the most venomous caterpillars in the United States and it shows up twice a year, in the spring and fall.

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Puss caterpillar (Donald W. Hall, Univ. of Florida)

It looks cute and fuzzy, but it packs a wallop and can send people rushing to the hospital with symptoms ranging from an immediate intense burning pain to low blood pressure, seizures and convulsions, in rare cases.

Other symptoms can include headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, tachycardia, and more rarely, abdominal pain and muscle spasms.

The puss caterpillar is the larva of the southern flannel moth. Its body is hidden by a coating of hair which also hides hollow spines with venom sacs at the base.

Tpuss32hose spines leave a signature red grid-like pattern on the skin that matches the pattern of the poison spines.

According to National Geographic, the pain is more severe than a bee sting and can be so intense, it can make bones ache.

The intensity of the stinging pain depends on where the caterpillar stings. A sting on more sensitive areas of the skin will naturally result in more intensive pain.

These furry caterpillars are found in oaks and some elm trees and have been known to fall out of the leaves and onto unsuspecting victims. It can also be found on bedding plants such as roses and ivy.

A Dade City woman described her encounter with a puss caterpillar in an Oct. 4  Facebook posting.

Treatment

  • Remove the spines, which have a barbed end, by ripping them away with sticky tape, much like quickly removing a bandaid.
  • Apply ice packs and a water-and-baking-soda paste to the site of the sting.
  • Oral antihistamine and hydrocortisone cream applied to the site of the sting may help reduce the inflammation and pain.

 

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