Virginia residents warned to stay away from venomous caterpillars
Virginia officials are warning residents to stay away from a poisonous creature discovered in the state. The Virginia Department of Forestry health team announced this week that they have received reports of what is known as the hangover caterpillar that can be seen in counties of eastern Virginia.
Officials warn that the caterpillar might look cute and harmless. It is not.
"#SocialDistance off that caterpillar!" said the forestry department on Facebook and posted a photo of the furry creature.
"The 'hairs' of this caterpillar are actually poisonous spines that cause a painful reaction when touched.
#SocialDistance away from that caterpillar! The VDOF forest health team has received reports on the ...
Posted by Virginia Department of Forestry on Tuesday Oct 6th, 2020
The tomcat, which is the larva of the southern flannel moth, is the most venomous caterpillar in the United States, and even a simple brush with the insect can cause "excruciating pain," according to National Geographic. The fur of the caterpillars hides poisonous spines that stick to your skin.
"The sting immediately creates intense burning pain, followed by a red grid-like pattern on the skin that matches the pattern of poisonous spines on the caterpillar," said the University of Florida Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Contact with the caterpillar can cause rash, vomiting, fever, muscle spasms, swollen glands, and shock, according to the University of Michigan Health System.
The tomcat, which is the larva of the southern flannel moth, eats oak and elm leaves and can be found in parks or near buildings, officials said. It is mainly found in the south.
"When you find the caterpillar, leave it alone and let its natural predators control its populations - there are a number of other insects that hunt it at different stages in its life cycle," the department said.
In 2017, a Florida woman's 5-year-old son accidentally stepped on one while playing outside. Her Facebook post about the ordeal went viral.
Pets are also at risk. Last year, an 83-pound Bouvier Terrier mix named Beethoven rolled his face onto a puss in boots. The dog's owner told CBS subsidiary WPEC that the venom had migrated through part of his face, causing a blistered, swollen red eye that needed immediate veterinary attention.
Dr. Dale Porcher of the Shores Animal Clinic told the station, "With a wasp or bee, the pain is usually gone in an hour. But with those, the pain can last eight to 12 hours."
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