CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia residents are being warned to stay away from a hairy caterpillar crawling its way to some parts of the state. Officials from the Virginia Department of Forestry’s health team say they have received reports about what is known as the puss caterpillar, seen in a few eastern Virginia counties. They did not, however, specifically mention which areas.
Although it might look harmless, it is not. According to the University of Florida’s entomology and nematology department, it is one of the most venomous caterpillars in the U.S.
The VDOF says the “hairs” of this caterpillar are actually venomous spines that cause a painful reaction to anyone who touches it.
Symptoms of contact may include intense pain, rash, nausea and vomiting, fever, muscle cramps, swollen glands, and shock, according to the University of Michigan Health System.
The puss caterpillar, which is the larva of the southern flannel moth, eats oak and elm leaves, but it can be found in parks or near structures, largely in southern states.
Officials say if you find the caterpillar, leave it alone and “let its natural enemies control their populations.”
What are its natural enemies? They are insects that prey on the caterpillars at different stages of their life cycle.