Those caterpillars in your garden may look fascinating enough to pick up, but there’s one in particular that scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are warning you to steer clear of: the furry puss caterpillar, or Megalopyge opercularis.
The puss caterpillar is allegedly the most poisonous in the US. Its venom, which is hidden in hollow spines on its fur, can deliver a painful punch that’s said to be similar to a jellyfish or scorpion.
According to doctors from the University of Florida, if you touch, or step on, this particular creature, you will instantly feel its wrath. Often times, in the form of convulsions and vomiting.
They are known to feed on shade trees, such as sycamore, elm and oak. So, if you have one of these trees in your yard, you might want to use caution when walking near or beneath it.
Recently, puss caterpillars have been appearing all over the east coast, especially in Florida, but are also prevalent in southern states like Texas.
When the caterpillar matures, it turns into the feathered flannel moth, which is apparently far less of a threat than when it’s in the larval stage.