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Central Texas Local News | kcentv.com

Fuzzy caterpillars can pack a painful sting | Here's what they look like

The hair or spines contain venom that can cause a painful rash and throbbing pain.

HOUSTON — Now that the weather is warming up and spring is blooming, we're seeing a lot more caterpillars, some of which can cause a painful reaction if you touch them.

AgriLife experts at Texas A&M University are reminding us what stinging caterpillars look like and how to avoid them.

Here are some examples:

  • The buck moth caterpillar
  • The spiny oak slug
  • The hickory tussock moth caterpillar
  • The saddleback

Basically, if they're fuzzy or spiky – don't touch!

Credit: KHOU
AgriLife experts at Texas A&M University are reminding us what stinging caterpillars look like and how to avoid them.

The hair or spines contain venom that can cause a painful rash and throbbing pain.

Experts say the caterpillar that causes the most painful reaction is the Southern Flannel, also known as the asp or puss caterpillar.

Credit: KHOU
Experts say the caterpillar that causes the most painful reaction is the Southern Flannel, also known as the asp or puss caterpillar.

It looks deceptively soft and might be tempting for kids to pick it up and "pet" it,  but again, don't let them.

This time of year these caterpillars are wandering around looking for a spot to pupate, which is to form their cocoons so they can turn into moths or butterflies.

Credit: KHOU
This time of year these caterpillars are wandering around looking for a spot to pupate which is to form their cocoons so they can turn into moths or butterflies.

After that, they're very important for the pollination of flowers, trees and fruits and vegetables. So if you can, just leave the caterpillars alone.

How do you treat a hairy caterpillar sting? 

According to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, to treat an asp sting:

  • An ice pack should be applied to the site of the sting.
  • Oral antihistamines can be administered to help relieve the itching and burning sensations.
  • For caterpillars with stout spines, try carefully applying cellophane tape to, and stripping it from, the sting site to remove the irritating spines.

If you have an allergic reaction, see a physician immediately. Eye injuries should also be referred to a specialist immediately.

How to control asp populations

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension said asps can be controlled when they become abundant by spraying with a residual pesticide such as permethrin, cyfluthrin or similar sprays labeled for control of caterpillars on ornamental plants.

They added the best solution may be just educating people on what the caterpillars are, and the importance of not touching with bare hands.