Could This Louisiana Caterpillar Put You – Or Your Kids – in the Hospital?
As any Louisianan knows, there are any number of creatures across the state that are, oh, let's say, worthy of being avoided. Those range in size from the largest alligator to a few tiny, yet venomous snakes. But there's one diminutive insect that, unless you're extremely careful, could send you to the hospital. It's known as Louisiana's Puss Moth caterpillar.
The Puss Moth, known in scientific circles as megalopyge opercularis, are dangerous because of their rows of sharp, venomous needles.
Merckmanuals.com gives a more vivid description:
"They are one of the most toxic caterpillars in North America. Puss moth caterpillars are endemic to the southern US and live in shade trees and shrubbery around homes and schools and in parks. They are teardrop shaped and, because they have long silky hair, resemble a tuft of cotton or fur. Their color varies from yellow or gray to reddish brown. When a puss moth caterpillar rubs or is pressed against skin, venomous hairs become embedded."
And what happens then? Well, nothing good!
"(Contact) causes intense throbbing pain, burning, and a rash with spots. More susceptible patients can experience swelling, nausea, abdominal pain, headache...shock, and respiratory distress."
In fact, one south Louisiana girl recently ended up in the emergency room after accidentally stepping on one of the poisonous creatures. According to brproud.com, Avery Trahan of Scott said contact with the caterpillar "felt like stepping on a dozen pine cones."
Here's more from brproud.com:
"Her mother...didn’t recognize what hurt her daughter at first, “We gave her Ibuprofen. We gave her Benadryl, and the next thing I know my husband looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, ‘her lips are swollen and blue.”
The family is thankful they had an EpiPen on hand whenever Avery started screaming bloody murder and her leg started turning blue. They injected her with it before rushing to the ER."
The Puss Moth caterpillars are usually found on oak trees in the spring and fall and are considered by entomologists to be among the most dangerous in the United States.