Puss caterpillars: Four things you need to know
Wednesday, September 17, 2014, 5:44 PM - Megalopyge opercularis, also referred to as the puss caterpillar, is common in parts of the U.S. during the late-summer months -- but coming into close contact with the creatures can land a person in the emergency room.
1. WHAT ARE THEY?
Measuring 34 to 36 mm in length, puss caterpillars are extremely venomous creatures that vary in colour from grayish-white, to orangey-brown, to charcoal.
When they reach adult stage, they turn into yellow or orange moths with black, furry feet.
Megalopyge opercularis in adult form.
2. THEIR FUR CAUSES INSTANT PAIN
The fur of the puss caterpillar is covered with venom and a sting causes "instant" and "intense" pain, worse than that of a jellyfish or scorpion.
Other symptoms include vomiting, convulsions and a drop in blood pressure.
Earlier this week, a two year-old girl in Portsmouth, Virginia was sent to the emergency room after encountering one of the insects in her backyard.
According to her mother, a painful rash formed at the point of contact, extending all the way up to her shoulder.
3. WHERE CAN PUSS CATERPILLARS BE FOUND?
The caterpillars are common in parts of the U.S. this time of year -- particularly in New Jersey, Florida and as far west as Texas. The bugs tend to commune around oak, elm and citrus trees, as well as in garden plants like roses and ivy.
According to local media, interactions with the insects are on the rise in parts of the U.S. this year.
4. HOW DO I TREAT STINGS?
Mild stings can be treated by using scotch tape to remove the venomous hairs from the skin, followed by applying benadryl to the affected area.
Make sure to clean the area with soap and water. Ice can be used to reduce the stinging sensation.
More serious stings may require medical attention.
Photo courtesy: Wikipedia
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