Venomous puss caterpillars make return to Florida

Look but don't touch. The venomous fluffy caterpillar is making its triumphant return to the state of Florida.
A University of Florida horticulture specialist says the puss caterpillar appears furry, but stores toxins in its spine which are excreted if it?s touched. UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA INSTITUTE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES
A University of Florida horticulture specialist says the puss caterpillar appears furry, but stores toxins in its spine which are excreted if it?s touched. UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA INSTITUTE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES
Published October 23

Look but don't touch. The venomous fluffy caterpillar is making its triumphant return to Florida.

The puss caterpillar is most active during the fall and spring. And if touched by a person, it can cause severe pain, similar to a bee sting, experts say.

Stinging spines on the caterpillar’s body can inject venom into anyone who rubs against it, said Lyle Buss, senior biological scientist at the University of Florida. Most stings are harmless, only producing a rash.

There have been recent reports of the venomous creature in Hillsborough where a couple found three in their front yard. And in Hernando County, a Spring Hill man was stung.

The Florida Poison Control Center said they get several calls about caterpillar bites each year.

Puss caterpillars mostly feed on oak trees. They’re not the only stinging caterpillar in Florida, but they are the worst.

In general, it’s a good idea to avoid any hairy caterpillars you come across, Buss said.

"If you do see one, leaving them alone is the best thing to do," Buss said.

Information from the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Advertisement