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August 2, 2021
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According to LiveScience.com, venomous caterpillars are running rampant in Virginia, and they look like balls of hair but have spines that secrete venomous puss.
The venomous puss caterpillar is the larval form of the southern flannel moth (Megalopyge Opercularis). They might appear to be soft and friendly, but their fur is painful to the touch. Their “hairs” are actually the spines where they secrete their venomous puss. According to The Daily Progress, a woman in New Kent County brushed against one that was on her car door and described the pain as a “scorching hot knife passing through the outside of my calf.”
This is not the first time these caterpillars have appeared in Virginia, according to the states’ Department of Forestry. The University of Florida has reported they have even been seen as far north as New Jersey, though they are far more common in Florida, with the greatest population of them in west-central Texas.
Virginia Tech published a document on what to do if “stung” by one of these venomous caterpillars. First, wash the afflicted area to get rid of any hairs or venom left over. Place tape over the area and rip it off to pull out hairs still embedded in the skin, repeat this a few times with a new piece of tape each time. After this, ice packs and steroid creams will reduce swelling and reduce pain. They also stated that anyone who has had bad reactions to bee or other insect stings are more likely to have a bad reaction to the puss caterpillar, and should contact a doctor immediately.
CNN reported that, for now, Virginias’ Department of Forestry’s plan is to let the natural predators shrink the population size. If the population continues to increase unchecked, the state might be forced to start an eradication program.
ARTICLE: JOSEPH MODICA
SCIENCE/HEALTH EDITOR: KYLE SMITH