Virginia wildlife officials issue warning after multiple sightings of venomous caterpillar

It’s small, fluffy and very dangerous.

Virginia wildlife officials have issued a warning to residents after reports of multiple sightings of the venomous puss caterpillar. The little hairs on the insect are actually venomous spikes that can cause pain similar to a bee sting.

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“If you find the caterpillar, leave it alone and let its natural enemies control their populations — there are a number of other insects that will prey on them at different stages of their life cycle,” the Virginia Department of Forestry said on social media.

#SocialDistance away from this caterpillar! VDOF’s forest health team has received reports of the puss caterpillar in...

Posted by Virginia Department of Forestry on Tuesday, October 6, 2020

They eat oak and elm leaves and have been found near structures in parks.

Reactions can occur just by brushing against it’s fluffy exterior. Symptoms include an itchy rash, vomiting and fever.

“It felt exactly like a scorching-hot knife passing through the outside of my calf,” Crystal Spindel Gaston, of New Kent County, Virginia, who was bitten by one of the caterpillars as she got into her car, told The Daily Progress. “Before I looked down to see where it came from, I thought 100% I was going to see a big piece of metal, super sharp, sticking out from my car.”

Sightings of the caterpillar in Virginia are rare, let alone multiple times. The caterpillar is typically found in more southern states like Texas and Florida and in the midwest like Missouri, CNN reported.