A bizarre little insect, resembling a walking blunt and squirting poisonous pus from knife-like thorns, is terrorizing Virginia this year, the state said. Department of Forestry (VDoF).
Poisonous purulent caterpillar is a larval form of the southern flannel moth (Megalopyge opercularis), and if you see one, you should stay away from it. Its “hairs” are actually thorns, making it one of the most venomous caterpillars in the United States. A woman in New Kent County described the sensation of “a burning hot knife running through the outside of my calf” when she touched one of the doors of her car, according to The Daily Progress.
Manure caterpillars have already appeared in Virginia, according to VDoF. And they were found all the way north, all the way to New Jersey. But they are much more common in Florida, and most of them ̵1; in west-central Texas University of Florida. Eric Day, manager of the Virginia Insect Identification Laboratory, told The Daily Progress that it seemed to be “an outbreak year.”
Related: Meet the colorful moths “Mariposas nocturnas” (photo)
Climate change made the weather warm in Virginia, as in most of the country.
“As our climate changes, we see some insects changing their populations,” said Teresa Dellinger, another researcher at the same lab. told CNN. “But it’s too early to talk about it. Caterpillars, moths and butterflies have cyclical periods, it’s all at the right time and in the right conditions.”
CNN reported that caterpillar venom is quite similar to bee stings, that people who have a bad allergic reaction to bees are more likely to have a bad reaction to a purulent caterpillar.
Virginia Tech has published document about what to do if you are “stung” by a poisonous caterpillar. Basic steps: Wash the area to get rid of hair residues or harmful substances. Place the tape on the area and then tear it to pull out the hairs embedded in the skin. (Do this several times, but use a fresh piece of tape each time.) Ice packs and steroid creams will reduce swelling and make the sting less painful. And anyone who has previously reacted badly to insects or who has been stung near the eyes should see a doctor immediately.
CNN reported that the plan now is to allow natural caterpillar predators to reduce their population in the state, but if they continue to spread uncontrollably, the state could launch a program of extermination.
Originally published on Live Science.