October 14, 2018 – A young Texas girl was reportedly hospitalized after she was stung by what is said to be the most venomous caterpillar in the United States.
While playing outside at day care this week, Lauren Chambers told NBC 5 her 5-year-old daughter, Adrie, was stung by the fuzzy-looking asp caterpillar, also known as the southern flannel moth or puss caterpillar.
The creature likely fell from a tree onto the young girls’ arm, delivering a painful sting which required Adrie to be hospitalized, NBC 5 reported.
Though they may look soft, the asp’s fluffy-looking “hair” actually hides small, sharp spines that “stick in your skin,” National Geographic reported in 2014.
“A puss caterpillar sting feels like a bee sting, only worse. The pain immediately and rapidly gets worse after being stung, and can even make your bones hurt,” Don Hall, an entomologist at the University of Florida, told the publication at the time.
Though daycare workers quickly removed the creature’s embedded spines from the girl’s arm by pulling them off with tape, the bite resulted in pain and swelling, Chambers said.
While Chambers told NBC 5 she had never heard of asp caterpillars prior to her daughter’s incident, “they’re common on a lot of trees and plants we have in North Texas… on oaks, yaupons even rose bushes,” Michael Merchant, an entomologist at Texas A&M, told the news station.
Thankfully, however, Merchant said these creatures will disappear as the weather continues to cool ahead of winter.
Most stinging caterpillars belong to the insect family known as flannel moths.
Flannel moths get their name from the flannel-like appearance of the wings of the adult, which are clothed with loose scales mixed with long hairs.
The immature stages of flannel moths are caterpillars which are clothed with fine hairs and venomous spines. The spines, when brushed against the skin, produce a painful rash or sting.
The best-known flannel moth and stinging caterpillar in Texas is the southern flannel moth, or puss moth caterpillar, Megalopyge opercularis. In Texas these caterpillars are commonly known as “asps”.
This caterpillar is often abundant and may infest shade trees and shrubbery around homes, schools, and in parks. They are of minor importance as enemies of shade trees, but they can cause a severe sting. When a puss moth caterpillar rubs or is pressed against skin, venomous hairs stick into the skin causing a severe burning sensation and rash.
An ice pack should be applied to the site of the sting, and oral antihistamines can be administered to help relieve the itching and burning sensations.
Black woolybear caterpillar, but it is a stinging caterpillar
For caterpillars with stout spines (such Io moth and saddleback caterpillar), try carefully applying cellophane tape to, and stripping it from, the sting site. This helps remove the irritating spines.
For allergic reactions, such as generalized itching or difficulty breathing, see a physician immediately. For severe pain physicians sometimes administer meperidine HCl, morphine, or codeine; aspirin is reportedly not effective. Eye injuries should also be referred to a specialist immediately.