Society

Whatever You Do, Don't Touch This Bug!

| by John Freund

Scientists are warning people about a type of caterpillar that may be deadly to the touch.  

KRIV reports that a fat, furry caterpillar called the Megalopyge opercularis, or 'puss caterpillar,' has been popping up all over trees in Florida.  

Doctors from the University of Florida warn that its fur is covered in venom. Instant, intense pain is felt by anyone touching this caterpillar.  

Florida resident Holly Nokes testifies to this, saying, "Had one land on my camera strap last year.  Burning-stinging-on-fire pain within a second of coming in contact with it. No itching just nonstop, excruciating pain. Six hours after, experienced chest pain, too."

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Nokes posted a photo of the critter on Facebook, along with a story:  

Megalopyge opercularis -- nickname "Puss Caterpillar" -- Touted as the most venomous caterpillar in the U.S. -- Hidden beneath the pretty feathery exterior there are barbs/spines of venom. Looks harmless but do NOT touch. If you are allergic you can go in to convulsions & possibly die. Began seeing them at Lettuce Lake/Tampa mid-August this year & usually keep seeing them til end of December & even part of January last year. They can fall out of trees & land where ever. Had one land on my camera strap last year. Burning-stinging-on-fire pain within a second of coming in contact with it. No itching just nonstop, excruciating pain. Six hours after, experienced chest pain, too. Went to ER. They come in different colors -- white w/orange "mohawk," dark brown w/orange mohawk, & auburn brown w/orange mohawk pictured here. They turn in to the Red Flannel Moth -- a weird moth w/hairy legs. Photo taken 09-14-2016 -- Lettuce Lake Park -- Tampa, FL

Facebook users were quick to respond, with one user writing, "I had one fall down my shirt collar..Extremely painful...Used scotch tape to pull the quills out of my neck....It was agony for about an hour for me..Luckily I wasn't allergic.."

Another added, "I can tell you first hand, it will hurt like the dickens for days on end. I wear a hat all the time now. One went down the front of my shirt, and I said words that I haven't said in a very long time. Make sure your children know just how dangerous this little creature is."

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Doctors warn the pain is worse than a bee, jellyfish, or scorpion sting, and it can also cause vomiting and convulsions. The caterpillars are known to fall out of trees, which Nokes says is what happened to her.

Sources: KRIV, Holly Nokes via WTVT/Facebook​ / Photo credit: Holly Nokes via WTVT/Facebook

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