Venomous Caterpillar Sighting In Florida Prompts Warning

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Venomous Caterpillar Sighting In Florida Prompts Warning

It is currently peak season for the puss caterpillars, and even though they usually live at a safe distance high up on tree branches, reports of people being stung are on the rise.

The one-inch puss caterpillar is named for its cute cat-like fur, but it is the most venomous caterpillar in the United States.

Although they appear to be furry and soft, the caterpillars actually have a defense system of poisonous bristles that can break off into your skin if they are touched.

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Venomous Caterpillar Sighting In Florida Prompts Warning
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It is currently peak season for the puss caterpillars, and even though they usually live at a safe distance high up on tree branches, reports of people being stung are on the rise.

Effects from the poisonous bristles under their fur have been compared with a wasp or jellyfish sting.
The Initial symptom of being stung by a puss caterpillar is usually just a painful skin reaction, but some cases can become more serious.

Julie Hammer of Virginia Beach says that when she was bitten, "it was excruciating. It didn't let up at all, so the whole time I was in the emergency room, it felt like I was still being stung."

The caterpillars live in several common kinds of trees including elm, oak, and sycamores, and are native to Florida and other states throughout the southeast.

The Entomology and Nematology department of the University of Florida writes that the caterpillar is found "from New Jersey to Florida and west to Arkansas and Texas (Covell 2005). It is common in Florida but reaches its greatest abundance in Texas from Dallas southward in the western central part of the state (Bishopp 1923)."

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