North America’s most venomous caterpillars invade Virginia

Virginia residents sight growing numbers of the puss caterpillar.


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The puss caterpillar, a highly venomous insect, makes its way into the state of Virginia in 2020.

Recently, citizens of Virginia reported multiple sightings of the Megalopyge opercularis, also known as the puss caterpillar. The larval form of the relatively harmless southern flannel moth, the puss caterpillar managed to stay out of Virginia in the past; however, residents recently spotted growing numbers of the species around Virginia and other southern states. 

This caterpillar holds many hollow hairs in its fur that when touched inject an extremely painful toxin into any living thing. Although the toxin is non-lethal to most people, some respond with a severe allergic reaction. These symptoms can include an itchy rash, vomiting, swollen glands, and a fever. “It felt exactly like a scorching-hot knife passing through the outside of my calf,” stated Crystal Gaston of New Kent County, who accidentally brushed up against a puss caterpillar.

The local Virginia community expresses growing concerns over the growth of the puss caterpillars affecting schools and parks. Instead of purposely attempting to kill the this venomous insect, the Virginia Department of Forestry, also known as the VDoF, recommends, “If you find the caterpillar, leave it alone and let its natural enemies control their populations. There are a number of other insects that will prey on them at different stages of their life cycle.”

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