Venomous caterpillar packs painful sting

Insects found in trees in Florida

The hungry, hungry caterpillar it's not.
 
There are no cute stories to tell about the harmless looking puss caterpillar, an insect named for its cat-like fur.
 
But Dr. Alfred Aleguas, director of the Florida Poison information Center, said that fur is covered in venom.
 
"It's a protection mechanism for them, and there are a number of different stinging caterpillars. Probably 50 different species of stinging caterpillars in the U.S.," Aleguas said.
 
Experts said those little hairs deliver a sting more painful than bees, jellyfish or even a scorpion.
 
"You can develop a pretty good local reaction with some swelling, hives even, but [with] a searing pain," he said.
 
Hope Wooten and her two young boys play at the park all the time and the kids love to play with all kinds of creatures.
 
"Oh frogs, lizards, spiders," said Wooten.
 
But the Tampa mother said she'll be on the lookout for the furry caterpillars that hang out on leaves and can be trouble if you are walking through brush.
 
"I didn't realize there were so many calls to poison control. That it was so prevalent," she said.
 
The puss caterpillars are out in force this time of year. Texas has seen a rise in the number of ER visits caused by them. And the Florida Poison Control Center is getting its share of calls, too.
 
"Avoid touching them if they can. If they've already been stung, try and remove the spines using a piece of tape," Aleguas said.
 
Ice is also recommended to reduce swelling.
 
If you have questions or need help, call the Florida Poison Information Center at 800-222-1222.
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