While enjoying a day out in a small park with her family, Leslie Howe, a mother from Georgia, encountered an unexpected danger. What seemed like an ordinary day took a turn when Leslie noticed her children near a peculiar, ball-shaped furry creature. This incident, first reported a few years ago, has resurfaced online, serving as a cautionary tale for parents.
The creature, initially appearing harmless, was a Megalopyge Opercularis larva, commonly known as the puss caterpillar. Despite its soft, cat-like fur, this insect harbors a hazardous secret: it’s covered in hair that conceals toxic bristles capable of delivering a painful sting.
These larvae, which can grow over 1 inch long, are found across the United States, from New Jersey to Florida and as far west as Texas. The sting of the puss caterpillar is intensely painful, often compared to a wasp sting but more severe. The pain can radiate to other body parts and last for hours.
Eric Day, manager of Virginia Tech’s Insect ID Lab, experienced this firsthand. While mowing his lawn, he brushed against a tree and was stung by the caterpillar. The burning sensation and visible irritation lasted for several weeks.
If stung by this caterpillar, it’s advised to use tape to remove the venomous hairs, wash the area with soap and water, and apply hydrocortisone cream or baking soda if itching occurs. In severe cases, medical attention is necessary. While the puss caterpillar’s sting is rarely deadly, it can cause anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening reaction.
Leslie Howe’s experience serves as a reminder of the importance of being vigilant in nature, especially around seemingly innocuous wildlife.