Less Than Cuddly Caterpillars

Less Than Cuddly Caterpillars

As a little kid many of us are fascinated by insects. Think of when you were young and wanted to pick up a bright red ladybug or catch fireflies in glass jars. Not all insects immediately make us want to run away or start screaming. Some look downright cute. This is the case with the tussock moth caterpillar. With its fluffy white exterior and tiny size, the little bug looks like it just might make a good pet. And this time of year they seem to be popping up everywhere, tempting young children to see if they’re as soft as they look.

Beware! Looks can be deceiving. This seemingly sweet bug packs a nasty punch. That fluffy white hair it’s covered with is actually a mass of spines containing a nasty venom. It irritates the skin and can cause a nasty rash. When handled, those spikes squirt out a poisonous chemical in self-defense. Unsuspecting people who might initially only get some poison on their hands also tend to put those hands near other, more sensitive areas such as the eyes and mouth. This can lead to a much worse reaction to the poison.

So, play it safe and keep your hands (and children’s hands especially) to yourself. Have you come across one of these tricksters? How bad was your experience?