Gypsy moth caterpillars are taking over -- and they're bringing painful rashes with them
While we've been waiting for the sun, we're not always too thrilled with the critters summer brings. And experts say it's not just the mosquitoes that we should be worried about. We also need to be on the lookout for seed ticks, Lone star ticks and ticks that spread Powassan disease.
And now, there's another bug to be wary of: The gypsy moth caterpillar.
In fact, you've probably seen this furry-legged caterpillar crawling around a tree in your backyard, especially late this spring. The red and blue-dotted furry creatures "come out" in May, according to Boston.com. They feed on trees and are thus responsible for summertime defoliation.
One of the biggest outbreaks of the Gypsy moth caterpillar took place in 1981, when the bugs made their way across the Northeastern states. As revealed in a New York Times report at the time, the hairy bugs consumed "the leaves off trees covering at least nine million acres from Maine to Maryland, according to estimates by forestry experts."
Just last year, another outbreak took place, as the caterpillars munching their way through more than "350,000 acres" of foliage, explained Fox25 Boston. While another outbreak is to be expected this summer, it's important to note that the caterpillars aren't just a nuisance for nature -- they have "stinging hairs" that can cause painful rashes and irritation.
Furthermore, according to Little Things, the caterpillars can occasionally cause shortness of breath, and irritation of the eyes and nose. Ouch.
For some, it takes one mere touch of the caterpillar to result in red, raised itchy bumps. "It starts with an itch, it gets red, it swells up, and then it takes several days to get better, and that's typically an allergic reaction," Dr. Bruce Gordon said to CBS Boston.
Many don't even know they came in contact with the bug until they get the rash -- a pain and irritation that some compare with poison ivy.
Though the rash can last up to two weeks, dermatologists suggest taking antihistamines or using topical steroids to alleviate itching or pain, asserted Fox25.
Related: How to avoid tick bites this summer