Reports Warn Users About Venomous Puss Caterpillars
OutlineReports circulating via social media warn people not to touch the 'Puss Caterpillar' because its fur contains venom that can cause intense pain as well as vomiting and other health problems.
© Depositphotos.com/ lauraluchi
Brief AnalysisThe claims in the reports are true. Puss caterpillars (Megalopyge opercularis) have venomous spines under their fur that can break off and embed in your skin if you touch them. The venom can indeed cause intense pain as well as headaches, nausea, vomiting, and other health issues. The caterpillars can be found throughout the southern United States, Mexico, and parts of Central America.
Florida scientists: Don't touch this bug
As far as bugs go, caterpillars are usually pretty tame – except for one.
Reports Warn About Touching Furry 'Puss' Caterpillars
Given the seemingly endless parade of fake-news reports that have been distributed via social media in recent months, it is understandable that some recipients have questioned the veracity of the caterpillar stories.
Claims in Reports Are True
Megalopyge opercularis, commonly known in Texas as an “asp” is one of the most toxic caterpillars in North America. Also known as puss moth caterpillars, the larva are teardrop shaped from 1 to 1.5 inches long. Although called a stinging caterpillar, the venom is actually in spines connected to a poison sac and concealed by the outer hairy surface. When touched they break off and remain in the skin releasing the venom. Intense throbbing pain develops within five minutes of contact with pain extending up the affected arm. Other symptoms may include headaches, nausea, vomiting, intense abdominal distress, lymphadenopathy, lymphadenitis, and sometimes shock or respiratory stress.The caterpillars can be found on various species of shrubs and trees. They range throughout the southern United States as well as Mexico, and parts of Central America. The soft and furry appearance of the caterpillars may give the illusion that they are harmless.
Of course, puss caterpillars are not the only type of caterpillar that can cause pain and other health issues when touched. Many types of caterpillars around the world can cause such reactions. In fact, Lonomia oblique, a species found in South American rainforests, can cause internal haemorrhaging and even death.
However, puss caterpillars are certainly one of the most toxic found in North America.
Treating Puss Caterpillar Stings
If more serious symptoms are present, you should seek medical advice as soon as possible.
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Last updated: September 8, 2014
First published: September 8, 2014
By Brett M. Christensen