Saturday, October 10th 2020, 2:08 pm - If touched, the reactions can vary and include itchy rash, vomiting, swollen glands and fever, according to the University of Michigan.
This caterpillar may look and be furry like a dog, but it certainly isn't friendly like one.
The puss caterpillar, believed to be one of the most poisonous caterpillars in the U.S., has been sighted multiple times in parks or near structures in eastern Virginia. The reports have prompted the Virginia Department of Forestry to warn residents to stay away from the hairy insect because it has venomous spines across its thick, furry coat.
"There are little hollow hairs in that fluffy, hairy material," Theresa Dellinger, a diagnostician at the Insect Identification Lab at Virginia Tech, told CNN. "It's not going to reach out and bite you, but if someone brushes up against that hair, it'll release toxins that you'll have a reaction to."
If touched, the reactions can vary and includes itchy rash, vomiting, swollen glands and fever, according to the University of Michigan.
Coming into contact with the caterpillar can also cause pain, as such was the case with a Richmond, Va., resident, who described the feeling as a "scorching-hot knife."
Puss caterpillar. Photo: Virginia Department of Forestry.
According to Dellinger, the reaction to touching or getting bitten from the caterpillar is comparable to a bee sting. She recommends monitoring the infected area for signs of skin reddening or blistering.
Victims can use soap and water and apply ice on the infected area, as well as take an aspirin for pain. If the pain is overwhelming, it is recommended to head to the emergency room.
CATERPILLAR NOT COMMON IN VIRGINA
This particular caterpillar isn't commonly found in the state, as sightings are more typical in areas farther south, in states like Texas or in midwestern states like Missouri, researchers say. It is not entirely known why there have been a spike in reports recently in Virginia.
Although scientists expect the caterpillar's natural predators will keep its numbers in check, they will introduce measures to reduce its population size if it gets out of control.
Thumbnail courtesy of Virginia Department of Forestry.