Beware of Feline Caterpillars

The Puss Moth Caterpillar is definitely one of the strange and weird insects creeping across our beautiful planet. Also known as an Asp Caterpillar, it looks like a veritable toupee scooting around plants and tree branches. It is roughly an inch in length and is known for its fuzzy and hairy appearance. Maybe as you read the name of this caterpillar, you initially thought “pus,” as in an oozing, gooey type moth caterpillar. If so, you thought wrong. This is a “puss” moth caterpillar, named because it resembles a “puss,” or specifically a teensy, little Persian cat. Now isn’t that cute? A little worm that looks like a kitty? I bet you want to reach out and snuggle it, don’t ya? Well...beware.

Painful, toxic stings

The puss moth caterpillar gives off a friendly, cuddly vibe but before you rub its chin to see if it will purr, beware. The puss moth caterpillar is also known as the “asp caterpillar” for good reason. An asp is a venomous snake so being called the asp caterpillar is not just symbolic. These downy-haired caterpillars pack a nasty punch. A bite from these little guys can leave a pretty painful sting. The pain can be described as shooting, intense and burning, resulting in most victims running to the nearest hospital for relief. The pain is immediate and intense but if you’d like to save an emergency room fee, below are a few steps to ease the pain:

  • Calm the victim

  • Use tweezers to remove the caterpillar, if it’s still on the body.

  • Place scotch or duct tape over the sting to remove the hairs.

  • Use a new piece of tape each time to avoid being stung twice by the same venomous hair.

  • Wash the area with soap and water.

  • Place an ice pack over the affected area.

  • Apply local anesthetic if you have some.

  • Take a pain reliever, such as Tylenol

These are some good ways to alleviate the pain and save a hospital trip. Monitor the sting for a few days after. If you notice oozing, rash, swelling, or symptoms don’t improve, seek medical attention.

Rapidly reproducing

The puss moth caterpillar has recently gained some notoriety as encounters from this fuzzy friend have been increasing in frequency over the last couple years. Typically, this caterpillar is found in Texas and Florida but you should still be on guard as it is seen all over the Southern US and the east coast as well. Emergency room physicians are well acquainted with the terrors and pain of patients coming in, screaming in agony. Over the years, more and more of these encounters have made this little caterpillar one famous insect.

And when it transforms…

The puss moth caterpillar eventually makes the change from caterpillar to moth. But I bet you’re wondering if the moth is as dangerous as the youthful caterpillar? Thankfully, the answer is no. The adult version is known as the Southern Flannel Moth. However, you will be interested to know that this equally fluffy moth does have some unique tricks to defend predators. The hairs on this moth are used to protect the eggs from danger. This is a neat trick, but the poop flinging is most interesting. It is believed that the southern flannel moths flings its poop away from their bodies to protect against parasitic insects wishing to attack.

Soft and fuzzy? Stay away!

Bottom line is, if you see a tiny wig-like insect scooting along the ground---run! Do not pick it up, do not cuddle it, do not give it a bowl of milk, and more importantly, educate your children on the dangers of these adorable, pain inflicting caterpillars so you can avoid the tears and trauma later.