Virginia residents warned to stay away from venomous caterpillars after several sightings reported in state
A puss in boots in a Virginia Department of Forestry ((Virginia Department of Forestry)) flyer
Virginia officials have warned residents to stay away from a type of venomous caterpillar that has been discovered in several areas of the state.
On Thursday, the Virginia Forestry Department's health team announced it had received multiple reports of the cat caterpillar sightings in counties across eastern Virginia.
In a post on Facebook, the department wrote: “#SocialDistance away from this caterpillar!
“The VDOF Forest Health Team has received reports of the tomcat in several counties in eastern Virginia. The "hairs" of this caterpillar are actually poisonous spikes that cause a painful reaction when touched. "
The cat caterpillar, the larva of the southern flannel moth, is one of the most venomous in the United States, according to CBS News.
The caterpillar's fur hides poisonous spines that cling to the skin, and any contact with the creature could cause "excruciating pain," according to National Geographic.
Theresa Dellinger, a diagnostician at Virginia Tech's Insect Identification Lab, told CNN Thursday, "It won't reach and bite you, but if someone brushes against that hair it will release toxins that you have reaction to."
Contact with a hangover caterpillar can cause a reaction that includes swollen glands, fever, itchy rash, muscle cramps, and vomiting, according to the University of Michigan.
Dr. Dale Porcher of Shores Animal Clinic told WPEC that unlike bee or wasp stings, pain from a caterpillar "can last eight to 12 hours."
The caterpillar is most commonly found in the south of the country and is usually found in parks or near buildings.
The department added, "If you do find the caterpillar, leave it alone and let its natural predators control its populations - there are a number of other insects that will hunt them at different stages in their life cycle."
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