BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WTOC) - Don’t be fooled by appearances. A fluffy caterpillar is one of the most venomous caterpillars in the United States.
The puss caterpillar (Megalopyge opercularis) has hidden toxic spines underneath its fur. According to a report from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at the University of Georgia, when your skin brushes against the puss caterpillar, the spines break off, releasing an irritating fluid that produces an immediate stinging, burning sensation.
The tourist information page, Explore Beaufort, SC, recently posted about the caterpillar being sighted in the South Carolina Lowcountry.
According to a report from the Entomology and Nematology Department at the University of Florida, the puss caterpillar and southern flannel moth is found from New Jersey to Florida and west to Arkansas and Texas.
Palmetto Poison Center Managing Director Jill Michels said her office typically begins receiving calls about the stings in August and the calls continue into the fall.
“The stings can be very painful and have sent people to the ER,” she said. Michels said the sting is the caterpillar’s defense mechanism.
In addition to pain, the toxin can also cause redness, a rash and some swelling.
While pets are less likely to suffer a sting because of their coats, areas of exposed skin like a dog’s belly could still come in contact with the caterpillar’s hair and cause pain for your four-legged friends.