A garden insect to avoid, the hairy Puss Caterpillar, is the larval version of the adult Southern Flannel Moth and a danger for all gardeners.
Gardeners Beware – The Dangerous Puss Caterpillar
One of the garden insects to avoid, a Puss Caterpillar, is the larval version of the adult Southern Flannel Moth and a danger for all gardeners.
Recently on the news, I heard about a danger in the garden that I hadn’t ever considered: the Puss Caterpillar.
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If you’ve ever seen something that looks like a cross between a caterpillar and a miniature furry slug, that’s the Puss Caterpillar or Megalopyge opercularis.
They aren’t very large, about 1 to 1 1/2 inches long, but species in the southern climes like Puerto Rico can get much larger.
It occupies a large swath of the United States all the way from Texas, through the southern states up to Maine.
Depending upon where its found, the Puss Caterpillar is also known as the Woolly Slug, Fire Caterpillar, Opossum Bug among others. But don’t be deceived by it’s cute looks. It’s not as innocent as it seems.
But what sets these bugs apart from the rest is that the Puss Caterpillar is the most poisonous caterpillar in the contiguous United States.
The Puss Caterpillar, which is the larval stage of the Southern Flannel Moth, has long venomous spines that look like hairy fur surrounding its body. These spines are what contain poison.
Should you be so unlucky to meet up with one, the sting causes immediate radiating pain and/or hives that can also lead to bodily distress, including nausea, headaches, difficulty breathing and even chest pain.
Did You Know? The puss caterpillar is most often found in or near gardens. And, you may even see one falling out of a tree. Even so, don’t pick it up or pet it. That fuzzy “fur” is actually poisonous spines that can cause pain worse than a bee or a jellyfish.
And, in some cases its venom can cause vomiting and convulsions, so err on the safe side and always consult with your physician with all questions and concerns.
The Florida Poison Information Center offers key information on this insect, as well as insights on a number of other dangerous caterpillars. But always check with your physician with any questions or concerns.
Here’s what to do if you get stung…
According to the Florida Poison Information Center, “Place Scotch tape over the affected area and strip off repeatedly to remove spines. Apply ice packs to reduce the stinging sensation, and follow with a paste of baking soda and water. If the victim has a history of hay fever, asthma or allergy, or if allergic reactions develop, contact a physician immediately.”
So don’t take chances. And, do not pick up any insect without first checking to see if it is indeed harmless.
You’ll be glad you did!
For more information on this topic check out this handy resource. A must for avid gardeners.
Do Butterflies Bite?: Fascinating Answers to Questions about Butterflies and Moths, written by Hazel Davies, is an informative book that answers the toughest questions about butterflies and moths. Great for gardeners and bug enthusiasts, alike.
And, for more garden tips and ideas, be sure to check out Wisconsin Homemaker’s Garden Section.