puss caterpillar

One hairy caterpillar is considered to be the most venomous caterpillar in America. Recently, it's been spotted around the state of Virginia—a rare occurrence, researchers say.

The puss caterpillar, or wooly slug, is most commonly found in far-south states like Texas and Florida. Scientists say it could be climate change that has brought these tiny, hairy nightmares to Virginia.

Its poison is hidden in hollow spines among its hairs, according to the University of Michigan. This hairy caterpillar is found in the southern states, ranging west through most of Texas and north as far as Maryland and Missouri. It feeds on shade trees such as elm, oak and sycamore.

The puss caterpillar can induce shock, deliver immediate, intense and radiating pain, swelling, itching rashes of red blotches and raised ridges, anxiety, restlessness, nausea, vomiting, fever, muscle cramps and swollen glands.

A Richmond woman likened the pain to a scorching-hot knife passing through the flesh. She took three days to recover and was sent to the emergency room.

"A person 'stung' by a poisonous caterpillar should immediately wash the affected area to remove any insect hairs and poison that remain on the skin," Virginia Tech scientists said in a press release. "Adhesive tape can be applied to the skin and removed quickly to pull out some of the hairs embedded in the skin."

Puss caterpillars vary in size from 1.2 inches to 1.4 inches.

Officials have said that natural predators in Virginia should keep this toxic caterpillar's population under control, but chemical insecticides will be deployed if the situation gets out of hand.

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