Venom-covered catepillar - don't touch this bug!

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Sun, Sep 7, 2014 - 5:50pm

What stings like a scorpion or jellyfish and even had poison on its newly shed skin?

Puss Caterpillar (Megalopyge opercularis). that's "puss" as in "Puss-In-Boots" as this is the larva of the pussy moth and resembles, to some, an inch or so long Persian cat.

This is a"puss caterpillar."

Recently molted skin.

(photo credits, Auburn University, AL)

From Wikipedia:

"The 'fur' of the larva contains venomous spines that cause extremely painful reactions in human skin upon contact. The reactions are sometimes localized to the affected area but are often very severe, radiating up a limb and causing burning, swelling, nausea, headache, abdominal distress, rashes, blisters, and sometimes chest pain, numbness, or difficulty breathing. Additionally, it is not unusual to find sweating from the welts or hives at the site of the sting. Ironically, the resemblance of the larvae to soft, colorful cotton balls encourages people to pick them up and pet them.

M. opercularis can be found on oaks, elms, citrus and other trees, and many garden plants such as roses and ivy. It is distributed throughout the southern United States, Mexico, and parts of Central America. The larva does not spin a real cocoon, rather, it separates from its furry skin and uses it as a protective covering while it pupates."

Gah. I'm going to wear gloves in the garden.

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