As the weather warms up and people begin spending more time in their yards, parks and forests, more people may be coming home with a rash or bug bite.
However, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts say before you blame a flying insect or a poisonous plant for a skin ailment, you may need to consider another culprit – stinging caterpillars.
“Spring foliage has brought on an abundance of caterpillars, a few of whom carry irritating or even venomous hairs,” said Janet Hurley, AgriLife Extension integrated pest management for schools statewide specialist, Dallas.
“We normally have fact sheets available for schools this time of year, but with most children out of school due to COVID-19, we wanted to make sure parents are aware that there are stinging caterpillars in Texas, what they look like, and how to avoid them,” she said.
Perhaps the most painful caterpillar in Texas is the southern flannel moth caterpillar, also known as the asp or puss caterpillar. An encounter with a puss caterpillar can be very painful and may even require a trip to the hospital, according to AgriLife Extension experts.
“A good rule of thumb is if a caterpillar looks ‘fuzzy’ — don’t touch it,” said Molly Keck, AgriLife Extension specialist in integrated pest management and entomologist in Bexar County.
If you are stung, you may feel immediate pain and reddish colored spots may appear where spines entered the skin.
Some people may not feel pain until several minutes after they are stung, while others can experience intense throbbing or radiating pain.
Other people may not feel much discomfort, and a red rash may be the only telltale sign.
If the caterpillar is on you, immediately brush it off if possible and then use tape to remove the spines that may still be in your skin, Brown said.
Washing the area with soap and water and applying an ice pack to the sting may offer some relief, and an oral antihistamine may help to relieve itching. Over-the-counter insect sting and bite relief products can also help.