Gypsy moth caterpillars are taking over -- and they're bringing painful rashes with them

Ah, summer.

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 They feed on trees and are thus responsible for summertime defoliation.

Olene mendosa caterpillarPhoto: Getty

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

How to avoid tick bites
See Gallery
How to avoid tick bites

1. Stay in the middle of the path

When hiking, make sure to stay in the middle of the path. Weeds, grass and trees make it easier for ticks to crawl onto you. Don't venture out to the grass or bushes, where ticks are formidable to be hiding. 

2. Wear long pants and closed toed shoes

Protect your skin. Adding an extra layer makes it more difficult to latch on to you. It's smart to wear pants, long sleeves and hats, especially in the summer.

3. Invest in deer-resistant plants. 

Since ticks feed on and are transported by deer, try looking into deer-resistant plants. French marigolds, rosemary, mint and crape myrtle are just some of the greens deer tend to "overlook". 

See a complete list of the herbs and flowers here

4. Check your dog! 

Dogs can literally bring ticks right to your front door. Prevent ticks by keeping their coats short in the summer. Use your hands to check the fur, stopping if you feel a pea-sized bump. Favorite spots ticks like to hide include the ears, toes and under the tail. 

Dog ticks don't "harbor diseases that sicken people", but you should still be wary. 

5. Yes, repellant can help. 

According to TickenEncounter, spray with DEET does not provide "sufficient" protection. Get spray for your clothes like Permethrin, which instantly kills ticks. 

6. Dry your clothes 

The CDC recommends tumble drying clothes immediately for ten minutes after you've been outside. Ticks can easily "dry out" with high heat, but you should make sure the clothes are completely dry. 

Warning: Ticks can survive the wash. 

7. Tuck your pants into your socks.

This covers the small, easily accessible space in between your pants and ankles. Especially if you are sitting, it makes it easier for ticks to latch on. 

8. Stay in the sun.

Since ticks survive in shady, humid environments, researchers agree that staying in the sun lowers the risk for ticks. According to LiveScience, ticks "can't survive" in places with lower than 80% humidity. 

9. Invest in Permethrin socks

The chemical is successful in protecting against ticks, mosquitoes and other types of bites. estimates that permethrin-treated footwear offered 74 times the protection from bites.

10. Mow your lawn

Cut your grass, clean your yard, get rid of any extra firewood or wood chips. 


Read Full Story

From Our Partners