The most poisonous caterpillar in the United States is crawling around Virginia and authorities are warning the residents to be careful because touching the hairy poisonous caterpillar can be dangerous, Metro reports.
This poisonous insect is called the puss caterpillar, and it is covered with venomous spikes that if touched, can cause intense pain, swelling, fever, and shock symptoms. Puss caterpillar is commonly found in the southern states in the elm, oak, and sycamore trees where they feed. But residents claim that they also saw some of the caterpillars in the parks and other places.
Moreover, authorities have received reports of puss in the eastern counties of the state, and some people who got injured due to touching the caterpillars were brought to the hospital. Officials said that the population of the toxic caterpillar is kept under control using biological intervention, but they are also thinking of using chemicals if necessary.
The adult version of the puss larvae is the harmless southern flannel moth, but unlike it, the larva poses a danger to humans. Its size can vary from 1.2 inches to 1.4 inches, and their body is entirely covered by hair, and only the head can be seen when they eat.
Virginia Department for Forestry has received several reports of puss caterpillar sightings in the eastern part of the state. One case was with Crystal Spindel Gaston in Richmond who told The Daily Progress of her encounter with the caterpillar when she was at the back of her car parked outside and suddenly felt excruciating pain.
“It felt exactly like a scorching-hot knife passing through the outside of my calf. Before I looked down to see where it came from, I thought 100% I was going to see a big piece of metal, super sharp, sticking out from my car,” Gaston said. She was immediately sent to the emergency room, and it took her three days before feeling normal again.
According to Eric Day, the manager at Insect Identification Lab of Virginia Tech, the puss caterpillar is not usually seen in Virginia and officials would only receive one or two sightings. However, this year seems to be an outbreak of the caterpillars.
Virginia officials warn parents to be vigilant of a hairy caterpillar which their children might mistake for a pet like what happened in 1923 in two schools of Texas when several reports were recorded of puss caterpillars stinging children.
Another incident also happened in Florida when a 15-year-old boy was sent to the hospital. His mother, Andrea Pergola, said that her son was screaming while they were standing in the driveway and when she looked at the affected area, it looks like a burn mark.
Virginia Tech said that when someone got “stung” by the puss caterpillar, it is best to wash the affected area immediately with water to remove any hair from the insect and any poison that remained on the skin. The patient may also use adhesive tape on the skin to remove the caterpillar hair and poison quickly.
But that is just a first-aid in case someone encounters the puss caterpillar. Virginia Tech still recommends seeking immediate care from medical practitioners for proper care, especially those whose skins are sensitive to insect stings.
Read More: Check Out this Fancy Pink and Yellow Moth that Appeared on a Woman’s Backyard
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Caterpillar, Virginia, Southern flannel moth, Flannel moths
World news – US – Hairy Toxic Caterpillar Invades Virginia