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Officials warn of venomous puss caterpillars popping up in higher numbers

Published: Oct. 12, 2020 at 5:11 PM EDT
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(WDBJ) - Don’t be deceived by the fur. Some of the very fluffy caterpillars you may see outside are actually venomous. And you could be seeing more of them than normal.

The puss caterpillar appears fluffy and soft, but looks are deceiving in this case.

“Each of the hairs on its back are attached to a poison gland, so that if you were to brush against it, each little hair would release some poison, or venom, and you could potentially get a very bad reaction,” said Eric Day, an extension entomologist with the Virginia Tech Identification Lab.

He says some of the reactions include a rash, blister or even severe pain.

The Virginia Department of Forestry warns in a Facebook post these caterpillars have been appearing in a few eastern Virginia counties - and they should be left alone. They’re also being found in other regions.

“We normally see a couple of them come through the lab, I had about 20 of them come through the lab, so the numbers are up, I don’t really know why, but it unfortunately seems like a really good year for this caterpillar," Day said.

He says people should monitor their pets if they are stung, and parents should “be concerned about it. It’s variable reactions, some kids may get more severe reactions than others. It’s definitely making kids aware it’s something that is out there and to be careful with," Day said.

These critters typically appear in late summer and early fall and can be found in low-hanging trees.

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