Archives of Puss Caterpillar Encounters
Reported to www.bugsinthenews.com

by Jerry Cates

The following are archived reports received during 2002 and 2003:

December 28, 2003

hi my name is Dylan S.  one day I just  saw it out the  window.
About 2  weeks  ago. I kept them in a jar and fed them, today i cleaned out the jar and I touched one. now I'm  crawling in  pain.  whatever you  do,
Do not touch them even softly.   
 
Written by an 8 year-old.

Ed. Note: Very sage advice!

December 27, 2003

My four year-old son was stung by a puss caterpillar today. It happened on a swing we had attached to a large oak tree (I had read that oak is a habitat they like). Also, we have treated our yard several times in the past five months for fire ants (I had read that fire ants can be a natural predator and the absence of them can allow the puss caterpillar to thrive) as there was an unusual amount of rain in our area (Sarasota, in Sarasota County, Florida, about 55 miles south of Tampa on the Gulf Coast) from June through August, which resulted in an infestation of fire ants in pretty much every lawn/yard in the region.
 
About twenty minutes before the bite, we saw the caterpillar on the wooden swing. My husband, a horticulturist, noticed it (he had been stung by saddlebacks in Miami) and told us to stay away from it. Before letting my son swing later on, we thoroughly inspected the swing (top, bottom, and sides) and the ropes from the swing to the tree and did not see it anywhere, so we thought it was safe to let him swing. The bite occurred after my son had dragged his heels (in sneakers, thank God) along the ground (after "pumping" on the swing). All I can think is that the caterpillar was in the grass and that he dislodged it when his heels dragged through the ground. It was found on the bottom of the swing immediately after the bite.
 
I put a baking soda paste on the area and applied a cold pack. He fell asleep about 30 minutes later, but was still in pain. We are checking him every 20 minutes for a possible severe allergic reaction.
 
I don't know of this helps but I saw the link requesting reports & thought I would include our experience.

C.M., Sarasota, Florida

December 23, 2003

Hello Jerry,

season's greetings combined with the best wishes for the new year. Have only just -4 weeks after the encounter- got rid of the problems connected with the puss caterpillar (in Florida). Thanks to your advice re the tape. Are presently experiencing - 5 to -8° C, but no snow in sight. So we are dreaming of a white X-mas. Regards M., Bremen, Germany

December 17, 2003

Hi, I'm a Survival Instructor here in San Antonio, at Lackland AFB. We found a Puss Caterpiller here, and just wanted to pass along that we have one. My students came across it in front of their dorms, on the sidewalk. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. Thank you.

SSgt Joe M.

USAF

Lackland AFB, TX

December 09, 2003

I came upon your website trying to identify a caterpillar I saw on December 2, 2003 at the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve, Florida.
 
Based on your photos, I believe my photo is of the Puss caterpillar.

B. A. Dewitt

Editor's Note: The photo referred to has been posted to the puss caterpillar page. 

December 04, 2003

Mr. Cates,

What a wonderful web site. My husband called me to describe this little guy and asked if I would get online and find out more. Seems they are having an outbreak on their picnic tables at work. Growing up in South Texas I am familiar with these little guys, we called them Asps when I was a kid. They liked to hang out at our apartment swimming pool. I've stepped on them, sat on TWO (!), the pain is unmistakable. I was wondering if you could tell me why we have such an insurgent population every few years? Are there no predators to keep them in check? Thank you for taking the time to keep such an informative web site going and current. If you'd like I can see if he can get some good pictures - seems like you've got some good ones already. We are in South San Antonio - Lackland Air Force Base Texas

Editor's Note: Yes, please send photos! As for why we have such a good (i.e., bad) crop of these pests this year, several possibilities come to mind. However, we can only speculate at this point, and it will be interesting to see how 2004 develops. 

November 30, 2003

Mr. Cates,

Your site is excellent. I would like to suggest that you post your answers to the questions folks ask you, because if one person has the question, you can be sure lots of other people do too.

Have you ever heard of an animal being stung by a puss caterpillar?

Thanks so much for the great info. I am posting a link to your site on Gardenweb.com, in the Texas gardening section.

Best wishes,

J.H., Texas

Editor's Note: Thanks for your comments. I do post answers to questions not covered elsewhere on this website, but I try not to post redundant material. This page already exceeds 40 pages of print, and takes nearly 1.5 minutes to load over a dial-up network, and I try not to add to that unnecessarily.

November 30, 2003

Hi, I was outside with my family the other day and we found a pair of these fuzzy little things on my children's play wood fort.  My son ran in to get a net and his insect carrier.  my daughter Only 4 years old picked it up and put it into the net and then they tried to get them into the insect carrier.  The things wouldn't un-stick from the net so I got a stick and rubbed them until they fell into the carrier.  We put some leaves and sticks into the carrier thinking these were the most interesting things I have seen in a while.  I sat the carrier in my sons room and there it sat all weekend.  Then tonight he was thinking that he wanted to take them for show and tell which is Tomorrow at his school. I told him that I would have to look them up on the internet first before we took them so we would know something more about them.  Thank Goodness I did!  I searched for about 30 minutes before I found your site ! and even realized what the name of them were.  We have two of these nasty things in this carrier and I am afraid to touch it.  I set it out on the porch and I am not sure what to do with them now.  I can't believe my daughter didn't get stung.  I think there must have been an angel watching over them that day.  We live in Maitland Florida and that is about 10-15 minutes from Orlando.
Thank you so much for doing such a great job on your site and informing us of what could happen if we would have been stung by these interesting but harmful caterpillars. 
 
Thanks,
Tk from Florida. 

Editor's Note: Puss caterpillars present unusual risks. I do not advise keeping them in insect carriers inside a typical residence. They are not suitable subjects for "show and tell", either alive or dead. The venomous spines of this pest continue to pose risks to anyone handling even dead specimens. To safely dispose of this insect once it has inadvertently been placed in an insect carrier, mix one capful of dishwater detergent in a suitable amount of water and pour into the carrier; swish the water around until the caterpillar is fully immersed in the liquid. The soapy water should kill the caterpillar in a few minutes, and will enable you to empty the contents of the carrier into a toilet. After flushing the toilet, flush the carrier liberally with water to remove any spines that may have been left behind. Remember, the venomous spines are microscopic, so carry this out with due diligence.

November 28, 2003

Mr. Cates,
 
I was sitting out on the deck in our backyard and got up to come inside.  By the time I came inside I felt this severe burning and pain in my left buttock.  I had no idea what had stung me, I went back outside to look at where I was sitting and discovered a hairy looking caterpillar  with white stripes one in the middle of the spine and white dots on the sides.  I have never seen one of these before.  I immediately took a benadryl and applied cortisone cream to the area and the pain went into my groin and down my left leg.  A couple of hours later before finding this website I was becoming nauseated and thought maybe it was from the benadryl.  Right now I am sitting here wondering if I should go to the ER because of being nauseated but will give it a little longer.  I learned that I should apply duct tape to the area which I did but it is still hurting or stinging really bad. 
 
I am really amazed to find that so many people are having the same problem.  This website has been very helpful.
 
D., Ft. Lauderdale, FL

November 27, 2003

Hello Mr. Cates,
  Thanks so much for your web site.  I have something new to add to your list of encounters with the puss caterpillar.  My children were playing with one today that we found on our oak tree.  They put it out back on their play set.  My 5 year old son went out back to look for his shoes and came in the house screaming like I have never heard before.  I couldn't understand what he was telling me but saw that his upper lip was swelling really badly and he said a caterpillar stung him.  I got my husband to help me try to console him because he was just hysterical in pain.  After trying several things on his lip my husband noticed that his bottom lip was swelling now too.  He has the entire imprint of the 1" long puss caterpillar inside his upper and lower lips.  I wish I had a digital camera to send you a shot of the swelling.  The tape treatment was much more difficult to do since his mouth was so wet from crying so hard.  It still gave him some relief though.  It is the only thing we've done so far to give him any relief at all.  Thanks so much for your help and the help of all the others stories you have posted. 
  My son was trying to see how soft the caterpillar was and that is why he put it up to his lips.  Once he could speak all he kept saying(we had the caterpillar in a baggie incase we needed it) was squish it!  squish it! I don't believe he will ever mess with any other insect again.  I am thankful we all know to be on the lookout for them now.
  P.S. The encounter took place here in Ocoee Florida just on the outskirts of Orlando.  My older kids were telling me that the puss caterpillars have been in the back yard for awhile now on their play set everyday when they go outside.  We had found this one in the front yard on an oak tree and have oaks in the back yard too. 
  S.J., Ocoee, Florida

November 25, 2003

Yesterday morning I was out in our front yard weeding. My 11 month-old baby was wandering around with me. All of a sudden he started to scream. I quickly picked him up from the driveway and brushed off his bare feet, thinking he had stepped on a broken acorn from our live oak tree. It took a few minutes before he really felt the effects of being stung, and then I couldn't even hold him because he was squirming in pain. I put him on the floor while I got on the phone to call the Doctor's office.

All I could think was that he had been stung by a wasp because there was no stinger. While he was on the floor he was just screaming and rolling around in pain. I was getting a little panicky myself, but the Dr's office said to give him some Benadryl orally and put some cortaid on his foot. I gave him Benadryl orally and on his foot and rubbed ice on his foot and kept the area clean. He fussed most of the rest of the day.

Normally, he is very active, but when he wasn't sleeping he was fussing and just wanting to be held and cuddled (which I must admit I enjoyed

because normally he isn't cuddly for long). I went back outside twice after I had him calmed down (2 to 3 hours later) trying to figure out what might have done this to my little baby. The spot on his foot just didn't look like a wasp bite, there were no holes or bite mark. I saw this cute little fuzz ball, however, and because I had no idea what it was I put it in a jar. My neighbors had no idea. My Mom and husband had never seen anything like it, but they all said it had nothing to do with whatever had stung him. I am glad now that I was persistent in finding out just what this cute thing was. Now I will keep very careful watch out for the nasty little fellows. I also have an almost -3 year -old who is very curious. Thankfully she was in the house, and now we have showed her the culprit and taught her to never touch one but to call for an adult if she does see one.

I got on the Internet to find out what the thing was called: a Puss Caterpillar/Tree Asp/member of the Megalopygidae family.

I am so glad I found your web site several hours after the incident. I wish I had known about it earlier. I used adhesive tape several times over a period of the next few hours. In fact, my mother actually saw some of the spines in the foot being pulled out by the tape. It definitely helped to get the spines removed. My son seemed to have some immediate relief with their disappearance, including having fun trying to use the tape himself.

I might try letting someone in the media know so others can be on the lookout.

We live in Deltona, Florida 32725 just north of Sanford (Between Orlando and Daytona Beach)

K. S.

November 23, 2003

My 2 year old daughter had the unfortunate experience of meeting one of these critters while on vacation at my sister's house in Melrose Florida. 
 
The caterpillar got under her nightgown and stung her multiple times on both legs and thighs.  it must have been very painful because she cried for about 45 minutes even after we gave her a bath right away. 
 
We had no idea what she had gotten into until we found the puss caterpillar attached to the inside of her nightgown.
 
Thanks for the web site it was very informative.
 
Bart J.
Delaware Ohio

November 20, 2003

Mr. Cates-
 
I wish that I would have found this site on Saturday, November 16th, 2003.
On the afternoon of the 16th, went out to the porch to sit.  Upon sitting in the chair, I felt this horrible pinching/ stinging.  The burning immediately went around the inside of my thigh, into the groin area and all the way to the kidney area with in 10 mins.  I put and ice pack on the back of my leg seemed like there are a huge splotch about 6 inches in diameter.  With in an hour in was laying in bed tossing and turning from the pain. This pain was worse then the kidney stones that I have had.  I honestly did not have a clue what it was that got me.  3 hours later I was still in pain so i took a darvocet (pain meds) and took a hot bath.  That pain pill did not even touch the pain!  My leg was on fire!   I asked if anyone knew what this bug was that I saw later on the chair and they mentioned it was an "asp"   The pain stuck with me for about 24 hours and then went away.  All that is left is an almond shaped ring with stripes of what looks like pin holes.   Is there anything that I need to do with this now that it has been 5 days since this occurred?
 
If there any way to spray for these things.  I found one a few weeks ago on my cat.  Just flicked it off her.  Thank goodness she did not get stung, she would not have been able to tell me what was wrong.  Going forward.. if I see one of these little buggers.  They are dead!!!!  
 
K.M.- Friendwood, TX 77546

November 19, 2003

We see these caterpillars all the time on our playground at school. Is it in fact a puss caterpillar?

Amy M., Spring Branch, Texas

Ed. Note: Amy sent several excellent digital images of puss caterpillars, which have been posted on the main puss caterpillar page.

November 18, 2003

Last Wednesday night, November 12, 2003, on our way in from church, I saw a furry little creature on the stucco wall outside my front door.  I called my husband back out to see it and we were both fascinated.  It looked like it was covered with rabbit fur.  My husband decided he wanted to find out what it was, so he carefully (thankfully without touching it) put it in a bug jar and took it to our local County Extension Office the next day.  We have been amazed to find that the bug we found could cause such serious side effects!!  My question is this, if I found one, how likely is it that there are more in my yard?  We have 6 oak trees in our front and back yards, and several more throughout the neighborhood.  I am concerned for my three boys and myself as we have allergy issues. 
 
We live in Sanford, FL, with is northeast of Orlando by approx 10-15 miles. 
 
Your web site has been very helpful!! 
 
Phyllis in Central Florida

November 18, 2003

I live in Houston, Texas just inside the northwest corner of the 610 Loop (close to where 290 starts / Timbergrove / 77008). I've lived in Houston all my life, and have seen one asp, at most, every 5 to 7 years--that is until just the past 3 weeks. Now I'm seeing 1 to 7 a day in both my front and back yard. I have three enormous oak trees. I found one asp on the inside of my screen door, in addition to the ones on the garage door, car, wooden fence, wooden swing, tree trunks, brick wall, picture windows, and ground. I have not been stung.

All of the ones I've seen are roughly 1 inch, and range from off-white to very light grey, and occasionally medium grey. Some of the light grey ones have a tincture of beige or cream, and almost all of them have a thin dorsal stripe ranging from a rust color to a dark reddish brown. They blend in very well, unfortunately, with concrete, weathered wood, and brick mortar. I did not realize they came in so many color morphs, having never seen the yellow, or browner ones. I will say the little bastards are interesting to look at. Until very recently, I always held to the myth that it was only the dorsal stripe that carried the sting. 

I knew a landscaper, who was stung on the forearm, and wound up in the ER connected to a morphine drip. The pain he described was horrific--comparable to a rattlesnake bite. I've been pretty vigilant lately; careful when picking up the newspaper, reaching in the mailbox, opening car doors and trunks, moving the trash can with the rounded handle, and making it a point not to walk to close to walls, fences, and bushes in addition to not standing in one place for too long, since I've read that they have crawled up pant legs. For the most part asps move pretty slow, but I did see one move much faster than I had hoped.  I'm also concerned about my two dogs even though they are mostly indoors. I thought that seeing a few asps everyday was eventful, until I read a few of these letters mentioning sightings from the tens to over a hundred. Seeing that many would make me apoplectic.

I appreciate your website. I found that I got the most Internet hits regarding asps by using the genus-species name:  Megalopyge opercularis. A neighbor of mine, who is the curator of the Cockrell Butterfly exhibit at the Museum of Natural Science, provided this name.

Questions:

Would it be prudent not to stand under the large oak trees on windy days (like today)?  {I'm guessing yes}

Roughly, what % of stings have resulted from skydiving asps?

Do asps maintain a single color throughout their larval stage or does this change as a result of aging and/or adaptation?

How long does their larval (read dangerous) stage last?

Would pruning my trees of dead limbs, excess and sucker growth aid or exacerbate the asp problem?

There were many of the 'cottony' looking eggs on the picture window which I hosed off. Was this adequate?

Generally speaking, do dogs have a different reaction to asp stings?

Any other comments you have would be most welcome.

RS  Houston, TX

November 18, 2003

Mr. Cates,
I was stung on my palm on the morning of 11/16.  I was up in an oak tree and braced myself against the trunk with my palm--right on top of a puss caterpillar that I didn't see.  I felt the sting right away, pretty mild at first.  But within about 2 minutes, it felt as if I had put my palm against the heating element in the oven!  After about an hour and a half, the muscles from my knuckles to my elbow were cramping and painful.  The muscles at the site were twitching constantly, and red "splotches" began to appear from my hand to my elbow.  At that point, for fear of the pain spreading further, I got treatment at an emergency clinic.  The doctor gave me shots of a steroid combined with Benadryl, as well as some pain relief.  The muscle pain and redness subsided shortly after.  The pain relief helped me to sleep, but really did nothing for the burning at the site.  By the time I went to bed that night, the pain was still excruciating.  Fortunately, the next morning the pain had faded significantly.  Now, 2 days later, I still feel mild burning at the site, but nothing like before.  I've been stung by wasps and bees, but NOTHING has ever been this painful!
 
Thanks,
EB
Flower Mound, Texas

November 17, 2003

Thank you for the information presented at your website.  I was searching for a lost cat last night and as I reached behind a Nandina bush in our backyard was stung at least twice by what I thought at the time was bull nettle.  When the severe stinging radiated up my arm to my armpit and shoulder I knew bull nettle wasn't the culprit.  As a teacher, I have a wonderful resource in my school nurse.  This morning she suggested it was an asp that stung me and didn't know what to do to relieve the swelling and pain.  Not knowing even what an asp was, a Google search led me to your website.  Now, that spot right below my elbow is sore, swollen, and very hot to the touch with two red half moons clearly present but feeling much better than it did last night.  I wondered if this localized heat was common in puss caterpillar stings.  Every other symptom presented in the reports I had; including swollen nodes, ! headache, and a slight tingling in my shoulder and elbow.  But no one else seemed to mention the heat of the sore.  Ice helps by the way.
Thanks for the peace of mind you gave me today. 

Lydia C., Round Rock, Texas

Ed. Note: I asked if she had used tape to remove the caterpillar spines. Below is her reply:

Yes, I used the tape the morning after when I read the reports.  The sore did seem to feel better after that.  Now, it doesn't sting at all.  Thanks!
Lydia C.

November 17, 2003

Mr. Cates,

I accidentally brushed my right ring finger knuckle against a "blonde" lump of caterpillar yesterday afternoon in my backyard in NW San Antonio (78250). The caterpillar was resting on the edge of a bird bath and I brushed it while removing a leaf from the water. My knuckle immediately started burning. I washed my hands right away, but the burning pain increased and a throbbing ache spread to the back of my hand and then up my arm to my arm pit. I took a Benadryl right away, and after an hour or so 800 mg of Ibuprofen. I brewed some strong tea and soaked my hand in the hot liquid. I used the tea bag as a poultice for an hour or so. In the meantime my son found information and pictures of the "asp" on the Internet. I used packaging tape several times as recommended in several websites.

Later I applied meat tenderizer on a moist paper towel. The pain stabilized in my arm, but my finger felt as if I had smashed it in a car door. By bedtime, my finger alternatively ached and burned, but Ibuprofen helped me sleep. It's been about 20 hrs now and my arm no longer hurts, but my finger still burns and aches. Not much fun. My sincere sympathies to earlier posters who had more intense contacts with these caterpillars.

Thanks for your great site.

Jim W., PhD, RPA, Archeologist; San Antonio, TX

Ed. Note: I asked if he had used tape to remove the caterpillar spines. Below is his reply:

I used tape repeatedly yesterday and it greatly decreased the pain while I was actually involved in applying and peeling the tape away. Afterward the pain seemed to decrease somewhat. Better now as the burning and numbing slowly seems to be fading away. My knuckle is reddish and a little splotchy, but no lesions yet. And it never swelled much, but the pain was about as bad as a severe burn. Later in the afternoon and into late evening the pain reminded me of an incredibly painful cortisone injection I received a couple years ago in the knuckle of my fractured middle finger. I will definitely be more careful and watchful in the future.

November 17, 2003

I would like to report a Puss Caterpillar (Tree Asp) sting. Yesterday, 11-16-2003, my wife and young nephew were playing at the park, around 5pm, when she accidentally rubbed her wrist up against one of these nasty little creatures. I am writing you this email because she feels terrible, even 12 hours later, and doesn't feel like typing. She tells me that she felt the initial sting that immediately turned red, and that in as few as 30 minutes later she had a red rash that broke out from the initial site of the sting all the way up to her armpit. She said the pain felt like her entire arm was on fire. She was feeling so bad that we had to take her to the emergency room for treatment. The attending ER physician gave her a shot of what I am assuming was Benadryl to lessen the poison and some Vicaton for the pain. The doctor told us that the reason her armpit hurt was because the poison of this caterpillar affects the lymph nodes. I just spoke to my wife a few minutes ago and she is still in extreme pain, however the red rash has all but disappeared. The doctor prescribed three oral drugs to remedy this situation, Ceftin (Cephalexin), Atarax (Hydroxyzine HCL) & Vicodin (Hydrocodone). Needless to say, my wife will not be going to work today and I doubt she will be able to make it in for at least two or three days. A word to the wise, avoid these little animals at all cost, they will make you feel terrible.

Al & Shallon B., League City, Texas

November 16, 2003

We live in Polk City, which is in Central Florida.  My husband was out mowing this morning and came in saying something stung him on the neck, he felt like his neck was on fire and the sensation was moving around the back side of his neck.  A few minutes later he came back and showed us the culprit.  A furry looking caterpillar light brown/grayish in color with an orange stripe and a couple of white spiny looking things.  We made a paste of baking soda and water, he took Benadryl, and we began checking online.  It took a while for us to find the species, but finally we did.  He is still not feeling well, but seems to be ok... we'll keep watching him.  We still have the little critter in a jar just in case.  We have several trees in our yard.. pine, oak and sycamore, my concern is are there any other out there, we have a small child that enjoys playing outside.  We are grateful we found your website, it was very informative and helpful.. thanks!
M. Fisher, Polk City, Florida

November 16, 2003

Jerry,

We live in Winona Mississippi , about 120 miles south of Memphis Tn. My sister brushed up against some holly type bushes back in Late August. I looked at your sight then and discovered it was a puss catapiller. We looked and the leaves had been eaten off of an entire row of bushes. I called Mississippi State University and talked with one of the professors in the insect department, and he said that he had never seen one and that they were extremely rare. My sister was in a lot of pain and called our pharmacist and he prescribed some type of antibiotic and told her what to do for pain. It has been several months now and a trace of the rash is still there. Also she had chest pain and still has joint pain in that shoulder, by the way she was bitten on the left arm around the elbow. Is there ever any danger of heart or lung damage? email me back if you have any other info that she may need. She is a 53 year old. 

Thank you, Barbara P., Winona Mississippi

November 15, 2003

I was stung today when my finger brushed up against one of these at work.  I didn't feel the sting right away but a few seconds later.  It happened around 2:30pm and still hurts at 7:30.  At first I felt a burning sensation on the finger and then it turned blotchy red and started throbbing.  A little later I felt pain in my armpit.  The pain in my armpit is a little better but my finger still throbs and burns.  How long will this last?

Thanks,

Jessica B., Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida

Ed. Note: I asked Jessica if she had tried using tape to remove the microscopic spines. Here is her reply:

After reading about it on your website I did try the tape.  I wish I would've known that at work when it happened.  I'm fine now and there was still a little pain in my finger the next morning!  I hope to never come across a puss caterpillar again.  Thanks for the info :).  Jessica.

November 14, 2003

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HEALTH CENTER REPORTS A RASH OF STINGS FROM ASPS

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The University of Houston Health Center has seen a rash of stings from  caterpillars with sharp, hollow, poisonous spines. Contact with these spines causes a burning inflammation of the skin, but can be more serious when in contact with a mucous membrane or the eyes. The spines from dead caterpillars are still poisonous Typically, the contact area is the skin, which becomes red, burning, tingling and sometimes numb and swollen. Serious reactions are rare but can occur. These reactions include difficulty breathing, swelling of the airways, headache, nausea, vomiting and moderately severe pain.  Seek immediate medical care for these serious reactions, as they could be life-threatening.

Medical treatment is available on campus for students, faculty and staff at the UH Health Center. Health Center officials say treatment involves treating the area of  inflammation by removing the venom spines. This can be achieved by pressing scotch tape over the entire wound and then removing the tape. This may need to be repeated more than once. Use calamine lotion  several times a day at the contact site for comfort from itching. Take antihistamines like Zyrtec 10mg tablet or benadryl 25mg tablet and use an ice pack on the wound site. Also, take two Advil or  Ibuprofen every six hours for pain. When in doubt, visit the UH Health Center or contact the physician on call through the UH Police Department after hours and on weekends and ask to speak to the physician on call. For more information, visit the Health Center's Web site at http://www.uh.edu/admin/hc/Asps.htm

EDITOR'S NOTE:  For the latest university news, visit UH Today at http://www.uh.edu/uhtoday/.  To receive information on UH news and events via  electronic mail, visit http://www.uh.edu/youru/media.html

Ed. note: The above was forwarded to www.bugsinthenews.com on November 14, 2003.

 

November 13, 2003

A child in my class was "stung" numerous times on the neck, behind the ear, on the top tip of the ear, on the cheek, and just below the collar of his shirt yesterday. There were many caterpillars seen in the area for a day or so, and today there were reported by the school "not one seen". When feeling around in the top of his shirt to find the cause of his screaming cries, i found red welts and white spots. My pinky finger and side of right hand were stung as I pulled the two year old's shirt off. I thought at first, that he may have gone into an ant pile, but it turns out there was that peculiar looking caterpillar on the inner rim of his shirt. To think that not one of the staff had an idea as to what this insect might be, frightened me. Now I see that they seem to be quite common and to be watchful. "Falling-pain inflicting caterpillars!"-What a thought!!

-Tara R. - Houston, Texas ( Sping Valley area )

November 13, 2003

My brother in law was hooking up his telephone wire outside. He was stung by the caterpillar and it looked exactly like the sting pictures you have on the website. He is going to the hospital as we speak. He was complaining that his whole arm was throbbing and numb. Is there anything that you can tell me other than whats on the web site? I would really appreciate it.

Thank you for your time.

Deborah A of New Orleans, Louisiana

November 12, 2003

   On Tues, Nov. 11, 2003,  My child was stung by a puss
caterpillar.   However, he does not appear to have been stung by the outer spines, but by the insect crawling on him and by the creatures underside.  
   
    I would like any information you may be able to send on this type of sting.    He did not have any problems with shock - only severe pain and the sore area of where the underside was attached to him.
 
    We will continue treating with Neosporin.
Please send any info. that may be helpful.
Thank you,
 
    Terri M., Mobile, Alabama

November 12, 2003

Hi, my name is Shelley and I'm a preschool teacher at a private school in Spring, Tx.   We have had two students stung by the furry little caterpillars that we've come to learn are the Puss caterpillar.  One of the kids was a 13 year old who ended up with a bad sting on the front of her ankle on Halloween.  It must have hurt a lot because she was in tears.  Her ankle got red hive looking welts and swelled some.    

Because we didn't know what kind of bug this was we put Benadryl cream and ice on it.  It relieved the pain somewhat, but not enough.  Our second student got stung today.  When the kids went to sit down for lunch (we eat outside under cover) there was a fuzzy caterpillar on the table and one of the kids went to flick it out of the way.  When he did it bumped off the wrist of the child across from him.  She too began crying and ended up with a red, swollen welt.  She is 8, and luckily was not stung as badly as the first child.  Within about 30 minutes she was up and playing again.  We've passed a picture around now of these things and the kids and teachers both are on the lookout for them.  I'm like everyone else in these letters in that I'd never seen an Asp before.

November 12, 2003

Jerry,

I went ahead and reported this to the Chronicle.  Not knowing anyone there I just made the report via their web page.  I assume that they will pass it on to the appropriate reporter.  Here is what I wrote:

Stinging "Asp" Infestation:

There apparently is an infestation in west Houston of the Puss Caterpillar, more commonly known here as the "asp".

I've lived in Houston for 50 years and have only seen an "asp" once and that was when I got stung in 1982.  Recently, however, I am seeing them all over the place.

In searching the web for more information about the "asp" I came upon this site:

http://www.bugsinthenews.com/puss_caterpillar_encounters.htm

sponsored by Jerry Cates of EntomoBiotics Inc.,
(512)331-1111.  It contains the stories of fellow Houstonians who have also recently had their own encounters with "asps".  It becomes evident from these stories that a rare infestation is taking place and it looks like west Houston is the key area.

If, as a Houstonian for 50 years, I have only seen an "asp" once before, imagine how many children and elderly gardeners have no idea of what they are and the danger they pose.

I believe that it would be a good idea to investigate this story and write a piece that would help inform parents, school officials, and others of this danger.

Edmond H., Houston, Texas

Ed. note: This kind of citizen communication is important. It will be interesting to see how the Chronicle follows up on this request.

November 12, 2003

I live in Houston Texas and my son has been stung twice and I have been stung once.  Besides being stung we have seen numerous "white" caterpillars in our yard.  I have never seen them before.  How do I get rid of them?  My kids are afraid to go outside.
 
Christy S., Houston

November 12, 2003

Mr. Cates,
My wife Jan P. emailed you about a week ago about our son being stung.  This morning I went out and saw a few more on the bushes, then saw more ...
An hour later, and I've collected 130 of them.
I've got them in a plastic jar if anybody needs the venom for science.  Otherwise, I'll be more than happy to kill them.
 
Bill T., Round Rock

November 11, 2003

We live in Oviedo, FL, a suburb of Orlando.  My 10 year old son came in from playing in the back yard where we have several citrus trees.  He went into the restroom to wash his hands when suddenly he started crying and saying something is on my shirt and it stung me, as I ran over to him I saw a hairy, white/tan colored caterpillar that I knocked off with a plastic brush.  I wasn't sure what to do, so I washed the area with soap/water and he took a shower.  At first I saw a white, circular welt then his arm became red and blotchy, but I couldn't detect any swelling.  However, he was complaining and crying from the pain and after about 15 minutes he complained of nausea.  I was preparing to take him to the emergency room, but wanted to contact poison control center, so I searched online and quickly found information about the insect.  At that time I applied duck tape repeatedly to remove the spines, a paste mixture of baking soda and water followed by an ice pack and elevation.  After just a few minutes most of his severe symptoms were gone.  Although, he was still in some pain for the remainder of the evening.

Times like this make me truly appreciate the technology/information we have at our fingertips!
 
Kristi A.
Oviedo, Fl 

November 11, 2003

Hello,

My name is Jason C. and I was just stung by one of these evil little guys. I am 32 and have experienced many stings in my life, even survived cancer and chemo...this is PAINFUL! I sat in a camping chair in our backyard in Bellaire Texas (Houston) and one was hidden curled up on the top rear of the armrest...pretty hidden. I felt a sudden and sharp sting and at first thought it to be a bee. But, I turned and found a little furry white lump with orange brown Mohawk spikes like many others on your site had mentioned. Now I will do whatever I can to completely remove them...but more over I will make sure and wear shoes in the backyard (sadly enough I love being barefoot in the grass) and watch every nook and cranny before I sit anywhere outside. I feel for anyone else who has to suffer through the pain. It is not fun.

-Jason C., Bellaire, Texas

November 11, 2003

I've lived in Houston since 1954.  As a child my mother warned me about the "asp" caterpillar.  She had warned me that they lived in oak trees and we had a large Virginia Live Oak in the front yard.  I never saw an "asp", however, until 1982 when I got stung.  It was while working under the oak tree in shorts.  Apparently one had crawled up the back of my sock and when I went to squat down the spines hit me in the back of the thigh.  I didn't know what had happened until I found the caterpillar next to me.

I hadn't seen another one until recently and I am seeing a lot of them.  I now live in west Houston and have a large Virginia Live Oak in the back yard along with some small Dwarf Yaupon Holly in both the front and back yard.  Our neighbor behind us has a large Water Oak in their back yard.
 
I first found one on some outdoor stairs under the oak and near the Dwarf Yaupon Holly.  I showed it to my side-yard neighbor to warn him since he is a northerner and may not have been familiar with them.  He found one in his backyard on a Sago Palm the next day.  Since then I had fond several other under the oak and near the Holly.  I studied the Hollies but didn't find any.  Today, however, I took the time to stand still and study the trunks of the oak.  From just one vantage point I can count at least 10.  It looks like the tree is filled with them.

Someone needs to tell a reporter at the Chronicle and elsewhere about our current infestation so that people who are not familiar with the "asp", especially children, can be warned.

Ed H., (West) Houston, Texas

November 10, 2003

Sunday,Nov.9 my wife went out on our back deck. She came to me shortly to show me where she had been "stung" or bitten by what looked like a small kind of slimy bug. This thing somehow ended up on the top of her hand and she felt a stinging sensation. she rubbed the "thing" off but it sort of stuck to her hand. When she finally got it unstuck she inadvertently rubbed it on her hand getting a second sting 3inches or so from the first  one. She had 2 small puffy spots that looked similar to bee stings. 2 hours later her hand and forearm swelled up a lot! You could no longer make out the precise stings, you couldn't even make out her knuckles! She had already taken the suggested over the counter stuff and treated the hand with typical "Sting" remidies to no apparent avail. I think the culprit was a Puss Caterpillar, however what my wife saw was  much smaller than what was on your web site but did look a lot like one of the feet of the pictured caterpillar. Is this possible? It seems unlikely that a small part of this this creature could cause so much  trouble. Besides the swelling she continues to experience severe pain in her hand and arm that even a trip to the doctor has not helped! Her description of the" thing" this could have been is a very small gooey bug like thing that did not survive her aggressive brush off. Can you think of any other culprit his could have been? I am also concerned about her. symptoms have not improved after 30 hours. Susan has been stung many times by bees and such and has never had a reaction like this!

Additional note sent by same reporter on November 11, 2003:

I forgot in my earlier post to tell you Greer SC we are in the upstate....swelling has finally gone down, pain has subsided. I still think she brushed against a puss and the only thing left when she looked at it was its stinger spine. We have yet to have 1st frost. Thanks for any help.

M.H., Greer, South Carolina

November 10, 2003

Hello,
We live in SW FL.  The type of puss caterpillar we have is the flannel variety.  Just about less than an hour ago my husband was stung on the neck by one of these.  He has been known to be anaphylactic in wasp sting situations.  We are monitoring his progress as I write this.  He took some advice he read to place very sticky tape on the area and pull it back off in hopes to lift any remaining hair/stingers from the site.  He says it feels like burning hot poker as well as ice cold, as well as like a hard sucker punch.  He is in extreme pain.  We are in hopes this will subside soon.
Susan

November 10, 2003

Hi Jerry,

FYI, a friend of a friend (only an acquaintance of mine) was recently hospitalized in intensive care here in Houston because of repeated stings from an asp. Isn't this the same thing? They couldn't figure it out for some time, but finally found that the thing had been in the cuff of his pants and had stung him repeatedly. He almost died (really) and he's young (late 20's) and very healthy. Ever heard of such a thing? It started with shooting pain up his leg, and then progressed to a more generalized thing with nausea and vomiting, I believe. My nephew wants to know if the moth that these guys grow in to is also poisonous. Do you know?

Thanks for your info. We were really curious when we found ours and weren't sure if we should do a search for worms, caterpillars, or what.

Happy Sunday.

R.H., Houston, Texas

Ed. note: 1. Asp is another name for the puss caterpillar. 2. Yes, serious reactions to the sting have been reported before, especially in susceptible individuals or those who suffer repeated stings. 3. The mature flannel moth does not have the venomous spines of the caterpillar, and no stings have been reported as a result of handling the mature moths. Only the larval (caterpillar) poses this risk. However, if you see a flannel moth, you will soon see the caterpillars, since the female moth lays eggs that hatch within the next several weeks.

November 9, 2003

Hi we seem to have a puss caterpillar infestation. It sounds like it may not be as bad as some others, but I feel as though it is a matter of time till we get stung. we do have a major infestation of a harmless little green caterpillar with white hairs who seem to put up "webbing" which I have seen them in. I do not know if there is any relation to the puss caterpillar. we have lots of trees (pine, oak, camphor, pecan, crepe myrtle) and bushes (some sort of holly and others) all around our house. anyhow, you mention traditional pest control and biological pest control and it sounds like you recommend the biological route. will this harm any other creatures? we have lots of squirrels, lizards, birds, etc. in our yard who we do not want to harm. do you know of anyone in Houston who deals with these infestations? we are ready to take action!!!  what will happen if we treat our yard and the neighbors do not and they have them? will we be re-infested later or will the treatment have a lasting effect? also, what does a treatment typically run. thanks for your help!! we got lots of info from your site. It was the most helpful of all the sites we saw!!
 
thanks
 
Jeff
Houston heights

Ed. note: 1. Tent caterpillars of the genus Malacosoma are green with other markings, and produce webbing like you described. They are harmless to humans, and generally nuisances in the trees they infest but do little damage to them. 2. There are many good traditional pest control products that are excellent for controlling the puss caterpillar; I don't recommend specific traditional chemicals here because their use entails greater risks than the biologicals. In serious infestations, late in the season, traditional methods may work faster than going the biological route. However, when the caterpillars are young biological products using Bacillus thuringiensis, var. Kurstaki, work very well. In sensitive areas, and where high pressure sprays are required to reach foliage high off the ground and thus lead to increased risks of accidental over-spraying into non-target areas, using biologicals may be safer than using traditional chemicals.

November 9, 2003

We were in Richmond Hill, Georgia walking in the woods and my husband was stung on his arm by a caterpillar big furry white one with brown fur going down the middle of it like a Mohawk and tail. 

Lori, Richmond Hill, Georgia

November 9, 2003

My husband and our neighbor were both stung by the furry caterpillar you describe, and they shared the same symptoms reported by all your readers, in particular suffering extreme pain for several hours.
We live in the same zip code reported by a number of your readers, 77024.  It seems clear to me that this area is experiencing an infestation. Would you recommend that we report this to Hunters Creek Village, to suggest they spray insecticide regionally?
Thank you.
G.A., Hunters Creek Village, Texas 

November 9, 2003

My son who is two and a half years old was out in the middle of my deck in the back yard when he all of a sudden started screaming and crying and ran inside.  I couldn't figure out what was wrong but he wouldn't walk on his foot.  I went out to see what he might have tripped on or stepped on but there was nothing there, I noticed his toe started swelling and turning red so I put ice on it and thought he might have broken it.  I was ready to take him to the emergency room when my friend saw what looked like a fuzzy piece of fur that later turned out to be a puss caterpillar.  I saw little white spots on his toe and thought it might be poisonous so I called poison control and described it.  They told me what it was and that it was going to hurt him for hours if not a day.  They said to stick duct tape on it to get the little spines out and keep doing that with a fresh piece of tape until I couldn't see it anymore (duct tape is stronger but you can see better with scotch tape).  Then to mix 1 part bleach to 9 parts water and dab it on the spot with a cotton ball and give him Benadryl and Tylenol.  This occurred on November 6th, 2003 in Houston, Texas near the astrodome area near Myer Park.  I had never seen one of these before but after researching them and seeing it with my own eyes on my deck I know what to look for and avoid.  The best way I can describe it is they are a diamond shape and ball up sometimes.  Their 'fur' looks that of a rabbits fur with a dark stripe down its back.

D.K., Houston, Texas

November 7, 2003

My son and I found what I think is a puss caterpillar on our porch post today while taking down Halloween decorations. Ours is a little more brown and has a rust colored stripe down the middle of its back. It moves very slowly. We've been careful not to touch it, since we figured it might sting. It curls into a ball when we move it with a leaf, and then uncurls after a while. We got a little glimpse of its feet, and it looks very much like the photos you have posted. We live in West University, in Houston and have two huge pecan trees in the front yard. Luckily we have not been stung. Thanks for all the info. We're fascinated, but we'll be sure that we don't touch the little guy.

R.H., Houston, Texas

Editor's Note: Color variations in this caterpillar are common. Tan, light brown, gray, and reddish brown have been reported. Some have a spinal stripe contrasting with the rest of the body, others have no markings.

November 6, 2003

Yesterday afternoon my 11 year old son stepped on a Puss caterpillar and cried and sobbed off and on for hours, until he was finally able to go to sleep which wasn't until after midnight.  I called our Dr. and he advised Advil and Tylenol for the pain.  He sympathized with us, for he had had an encounter with one and knew the severity of the pain.  However he didn't know about the tape.  Thank you for all of your information, it has been most helpful!  The photo's are excellent. 
L.H.- Our City and State are Copperas Cove, Texas

November 6, 2003

Hello Jerry. My girlfriend (works) at the health dept. here in Florence, SC.  Last week she told me of a child that was stung by an unidentified insect. She told me tonight the specimen that was saved, had been identified as a puss caterpillar. I had never heard of one and looked it up, finding your informative website. By the way, the child is fine now.
 
D.P., Florence, S.C.

November 6, 2003

This afternoon I found the cutest caterpillar crawling on the tire of my van. Having been stung by cute fuzzy caterpillars in the past I knew better than touch. Thanks to your website and the A&M website I was able to confirm that I have a puss caterpillar. I live in Houston at northwest Loop 610 - close to where 290 dead-ends. Thanks for the info.

NNP, Houston, Texas

November 6, 2003

I was on your website and saw that you wanted information on sightings of these "caterpillars from hell." I have killed 7 already today, and it is only 1:00 p.m..

I live in Houston, Texas, in the Memorial Area. Most of our trees are live oaks and I have found the Puss on roses also. I was stung a couple of weeks ago by a smaller one, approximately 3/4" long. The pain lasted at least 10 hours and I still have a slight discoloration of skin.

My mother was stung two days ago, by a much larger one, and had a lot of swelling and pain. She was tempted to go to the hospital, but she (treated the stings herself).

Thank You for all the wonderful information you provided.

NNP, Houston, Texas

November 6, 2003

(In) Houston, Texas on 11/05/03 we had 2 students stung. One 4 year old (became) seriously ill after both wrist were stung. (This happened in zip-code-)area 77024.

C.C., L.V.N, Houston, Texas

Editor's Note: I asked this nurse to supply additional details on this incident, and her reply is posted below:

 

They both were complaining of burning and crying, large red welts, with redness surrounding area. I washed the areas with soap and water, washing with a paper towel, rinsed the area with Bactine, washed again and applied Hydrocortisone cream and an ice pack. It did very little to relieve the discomfort. His mother was in contact with his pediatrician because he broke out in a rash, and had fever but not seen (His mother picked him up from school and drove him home). Benadryl, Children's Motrin and ice packs were the only treatment.  He had a low grade fever yesterday in the afternoon and evening. Both of his arms are swollen and sore today, but he is better.
The 4th grade student was stung between the pointer finger and thumb (not as bad) I washed the area, applied Hydrocortisone cream and an ice pack. He returned to class. 
 
C.C, L.V.N., Houston, Texas

November 5, 2003

We must have an infestation of Puss Caterpillars.  In the past few weeks I have spotted and destroyed at least 100 of these nasty critters.  I was stung by one about 2 weeks ago and it really was very painful.  I feel like I only brushed up against it, I would hate to have one really come in full contact with me.  They are all in our oak trees and subsequently on our sheds, swings, gates, etc. around the yard.  They especially like to position themselves on the handles of things like a watering can, car door handles, etc.    In recent years we have had these caterpillars but never have I seen so many as this year.  I can't enjoy being outside for fear of coming in contact with one of these devils.
 
C.V., Wharton, Wharton County, Texas

November 5, 2003

Yesterday my 10 yr. old daughter accidentally stepped barefoot on a Puss caterpillar in our garage.   We had never seen one before and didn't know what it was.  She seemed to be in severe pain so I put ice on it & then cortizone ointment.  The pain went on for hours & is still sore today.    We found your website this morning and wish we would have known about the tape yesterday!  Anyway, we kept the caterpillar.    It moves but looks like it's shedding.  After reading your site, I think we should kill it.    My question, if we have found one does that mean there are more in the vicinity? 
 
M.P. Round Rock, Williamson County, Texas

Editor's Note: If you find one of these caterpillars, you should search your yard thoroughly for others. Look especially at dwarf yaupon and Chinese holly, then extend your search to the remaining shrubs, oaks and other trees. These caterpillars wander from their feeding sites, but seldom more than 20-30 feet.

November 4, 2003

Thank you for posting all of these responses. I notice I am not the only one in Spring Branch (northwest Houston) to see these. I was stung today while waiting on a bench for my kids to get out of school. The nurse had me rinse it with soapy water and apply an ice pack. I didn’t think it was that bad until about ten minutes later. I was stung on the back of my arm just below the elbow. By the time we got home, I had numbness and a rash in the area surrounding the sting, numbness in my little finger and pain in my chest under my arm. It must have spread completely up and down my arm. My son was stung about two weeks ago and I couldn’t figure out why he was crying for so many hours. Now I know. Hopefully my symptoms will be gone by the morning.

Thanks,

R.S., Houston, Texas

November 4, 2003

Hi Jerry,
 
I'm so glad that I discovered your web site. We have a 7 year old granddaughter and a 4-month-old toy poodle and we are afraid to let then go outside. Before they go outside we have to police the area and gather the Puss Caterpillars. We are getting an average of 30 plus a day. We have contacted the local sources about the problem and no one seems to know what to do. In fact they can't believe that we have that many, I have contacted one the Harris County Master Gardeners and they didn't have any idea that the problem was this bad. Also, my concern is the safety of the children at the local schools: especially the Elementary Schools. I live in the Memorial area between Interstate 10 and Memorial Drive and West of Wilcrest. The trees in this area are primarily large oaks and a few pines. Spraying of these trees would be almost out of the question. Do you have any idea how much longer we will have to live with this situation. Any suggestions will be appreciated. Incidentally, I was stung on the calf last week while mowing the back yard. I brushed against the brick retaining wall around my flower bed and sure enough, there he was.
 
Regards,
 
G.M., Houston, Texas

Editor's Note: Even high trees can be sprayed by pest management professionals using high-pressure spray equipment to disperse any of a number of pesticides labeled for this pest. I cannot recommend a specific traditional pesticide for this purpose. Biological pesticides containing Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki provide effective control of the puss caterpillar without exposing humans or pets to chemical toxicants; several sources for such products are available in the Houston area, and on the internet; I cannot recommend a specific source. 

These caterpillars typically disappear at the first signs of cold weather. Unfortunately, forecasts suggest this fall and winter will be warmer than normal, so a good frost may not occur in the Houston area for some time, if at all, during the 2003-2004 fall/winter season. Furthermore, the puss caterpillars you see today are preparing to pupate; in the spring they will produce mature Flannel Moths which will mate and lay eggs, starting the cycle over again. In warm climates this species can produce two generations of caterpillars per year, one in the spring, the second in mid/late summer. It is, therefore, recommended that an aggressive control method be used now to break the caterpillar-pupa-moth-egg cycle so that this problem will not recur next year.

November 3, 2003

We have a serious Puss Caterpillar infestation here in Bryan, TX.  We have probably killed 30 to 50 in our front yard.  They have been worse this year than in previous years.  Is there anything we can do to get rid of them?
 
Thanks,

C.C., Bryan, Texas

November 3, 2003

Hello Mr. Cates, 

I live in New Orleans and I believe I was stung by a puss caterpillar on October 31st. I did not see the caterpillar and assumed that a buckmoth caterpillar had gotten me since I was playing outside with my 2 year old under an Oak tree, which I know those creatures love. However, my reaction to the sting was unlike any of my friend's experience with the buckmoth. I was stung on my ankle, but the pain was so severe and it traveled all the way up my leg to my groin. A friend had to come over and watch my daughter because I was incapacitated by the pain, which did not let up for over 12 hours. In addition to the pain, my leg muscles were twitching, I experienced chills, nausea and vomiting. To make matters worse, I am 5 months pregnant and my OB said I could only take Benadryl and Tylenol, which gave me no relief. If I had not been pregnant I would have ended up at the doctor demanding heavy duty pain killers. 24 hours later, the pain had dulled to that of a sore muscle and I had a lingering headache. I had no idea that such a small creature could inflict so much pain! I am so glad I found your website because I was wondering why my reaction was so much more severe than other encounters I've heard of with stinging caterpillars around here (buckmoths are very common). In the end I am just so thankful that I encountered the Caterpillar and not my daughter.

ST, New Orleans, Louisiana

November 3, 2003

Dear Mr. Cates,

I was interested to find another account of an encounter with a puss caterpillar in Round Rock, Texas yesterday.  My 9 year old son came inside yesterday, Nov 2, after a brush with a bush in the front yard complaining of severe pain behind his knee.  At first he had no signs of a bite or sting but his excruciating pain and the fact that his groin was beginning to hurt helped me to conclude that he was stung by a puss caterpillar.  (I remembered that a neighbor had had a similar reaction to its sting several years ago.)

I put a paste of Adolph's meat tenderizer with papain on the site followed by a paste of baking soda.  I then used the tape as directed, ice, and Motrin to control the pain.  Within just an hour, he was feeling better and was totally pain free within several hours.  We then went to find the culprit.  He looked exactly like the picture on your site.  Today my son has the classic markings of a puss caterpillar sting.
 
I hope that others, too, will try these home remedies to see if these really can provide early relief from the pain.
 
Sincerely,
Jan P., M.D.
Round Rock, Texas

November 2, 2003

Just wanted to let you know that I  found one of these caterpillars on the SEAT of my hot tub today.  Looked him up on the web and found your site.  I live in southeastern Round Rock in the Kensington subdivision.  There is a large, older oak tree that hangs over the spa and forms a small grotto which we have always found charming-now not so much!  Would appreciate info about the best way to control this pest and ensure the safety of ourselves and guests; not to mention my 3# Yorkie who would be enticed to "play" with such an interesting visitor and probably would not survive the encounter.  Thanks!  S.D., Round Rock, Texas

November 2, 2003

Mr Cates,

I’m a father of two children “close to the ground” in Hinesville, GA.  

Three weeks ago my son shrieked in pain while playing outside. I easily found the inflamed area on the back of his hand and thought it was a bee sting yet found no stinger entry.  We washed the area and sprayed Bactine on it but he got no relief.  I sent my daughter to the area of dead leaves where he was playing in the yard where she located a puss caterpillar on a stick he had just handled.  At first she told me it was a “mole” – and when I went over to examine the “little furry mole”,  I concluded it was some kind of hairy grub.  I put it in a jar.

We took my inconsolable son to the emergency room an hour later. The doctors and staff had a great time passing around the jar but no one could identify the caterpillar.  Eventually we got some Benadryl and Cortisone before we returned home. He seemed better in about 4 hours and there were no long term after effects.  It’s difficult to assess the symptoms since a 1.5 year old can’t communicate well.  The doctor who took my specimen told me he would find out what it was – never did.

Today my sharp-eyed daughter found another.  I bottled him up too and searched the internet until I finally found out who this bad guy really was.  I appreciate the work you put into your site – we learned a lot and have forwarded links to our neighbors. I hope this encounter report helps you.

Sincerely,

Kevin K., Hinesville, GA

November 2, 2003

Hi, very interesting site and it helped me after stepping on an asp this morning. My foot has never hurt like this. I told my husband it was worse than giving birth. I hope the pain subsides soon. Please be careful out there.

A.P., Houston Texas

November 1, 2003

Greetings, Jerry.

  I don’t know if you are still seeking stories of encounters with puss caterpillars, but we had one today. We were at the Mercer Arboretum in Spring, TX, sitting on a wooden bench talking. Suddenly my husband said , “Ow!” and we didn’t see anything. Then his skin raised like a mosquito bite, but it got worse and worse with a huge red zone and finally the blood-filled lesions that I guess are characteristic. Not long after he was “stung”, we looked at the bench and saw the puss caterpillar crawling quickly across the back of the bench toward me. I flicked it to the ground with my finger, not knowing anything about it or that it has spines throughout its hairs. Fortunately, it seems I didn’t get stung!

  Thanks for the information you provide on your site. It helped us identify what happened.

  Best wishes,

J.W., Spring, TX

November 1, 2003

Greetings.

We live in Double Oak Texas, north of Dallas/Fort Worth, about 20 miles or so. I have seen a couple of these fascinating creatures around the yard this fall one sitting on the brick wall of the garage on the east side, one on the leaves of the corkscrew willow in the back yard and most recently, and most painfully, on the barrel chair on the patio last night. I inadvertently laid my arm down on the edge of the chair back and immediately had a burning sensation on the back of my upper arm. As it was dark I had no idea what I had gotten into until we found the flashlight and discovered the Puss caterpillar sitting innocently on the edge of the chair.
I had, and still have a beautiful outline of the entire caterpillar on my arm. Initially we put sting-ease on the sting which did help a little, but the pain was still quite intense. To help ease the suffering of the victim (myself) my wife gave me a Benadryl tablet and a pat on the head. I washed the wounds with soapy water, which felt really nice and covered the sting area with Caladryl ointment for the night.
As of this morning the sting is still quite painful from my elbow to my shoulder as well as a feeling of muscle cramping in my pectoral  muscle area. I can still see the outline of the caterpillar on my arm as well. I washed the would and placed a cortisone ointment and band-aid on it for the day. I won't soon forget this encounter with this fascinating creature and will be watching for them.

R.C., Double Oak, Texas

October 29, 2003

Thanks for your web site.  My wife has been killing many of the puss caterpillars in our back yard for the past several weeks.  Today she discovered six of them on the wooden fence and on the brick veneer of our home.
 
She remembers very vividly an encounter, when she was young, and is always reminding me to be careful around those asps.  The ones we have seen are a dark gray in color.
 
We live in the Spring Branch area (northwest Houston) and this year seems to have produced a bumper crop of those pests. Thanks for the web site.
 
W. & B. C.

October 24, 2003

My husband and I planted two plum trees in our back patio area.  They have been doing wonderful for a year.  About a week ago we started noticing the leaves were getting eaten.  So naturally we began to look the tree over daily.  Today I was frustrated after pulling the 30th puss caterpillar, identical to your photograph off my trees.  So I began to search the web to find out what they were.  Everyday I find more.  I thought an asp was a big hairy black crawly caterpillar.  Where are they coming from?  Will putting Cedar mulch down around the base of the trees affect these caterpillars like other caterpillars?  And if I do use an insecticide spray, wouldn't you have to stop using it when the tree gets fruit?  Thank you for your information on this web-site. 
 
D. and T. M.
Galveston, Texas. 

October 20, 2003

I am a high school senior from Houston, Texas. At lunch today, I happened to lean on a wooden banister outside one of the shacks at school. Almost as soon as I did so, the outside of my elbow felt like it had been lit on fire. As I jerked away, I saw a gray asp sitting contentedly where my arm had just been. The pain didn't go away for a few minutes, and when I noticed a dew-like liquid leaking from the pores around the sting, i went to the nurse. She attempted to pull the spines out with tape, and then applied alcohol and thoroughly washed the area. For a few hours after the incident, the injury looked just like the pictures on your site. Now, 6 hours later, the only evidence that anything is the matter is a dark red mark shaped like the asp. My skin is still leaking the fluid. The nurse thought the fluid might be puss, and that this phenomenon is where the caterpillar got its name. I contend that my body is trying to get rid of the poison by excreting it through the pores. For the first hour my shoulder and pectoral muscles felt sore, but now i just have more of a throbbing pain in the elbow that baseball players will recognize as the same pain associated with throwing hard w/o warming up. Thanks for your website it was very informative.

SM, 17, Houston, TX

October 20, 2003

I found your website and wanted to share my experience.  Yesterday, after walking the trails at Stephen F. Austin State Park near Sealy, Texas with my fiance, we sat down on a log to have a drink of water.  After a few minutes I felt a stinging pain on the calf of my right leg.  I looked down and saw a grey-black caterpillar curled up on the ground and a small wet mark on the log were I had apparently crushed it with my leg.  I knew that I had just been stung by an asp, but I did not know how badly I had been stung or what was about to happen to me.  In about five minutes, the poison made its way up my leg into the right side of my groin.  Thanks to a tip from a friendly park ranger, we drove to a nearby convenience store where where I was able to get 50 mg of Benadryl into my system.  But the pain was increasing and was moving into my lower b! ack, so we decided to head to the hospital.  Ten minutes later we were in Sealy, only to find out that the nearest emergency room was 15 miles away in Bellville.  As we headed down the road, the pain in my back and groin was increasing and started to move into the muscles around my stomach.  I also started to feel a tingling sensation in my arms and legs, and the muscles in my hands began to contract.  We finally arrived at the hospital in Bellville and by that time the muscle contractions were even affecting my speech.  I was taken to the emergency room and given a shot of Epinephrine and something else (a "downer" I was told).  After another 30 minutes or so, the pain began to subside, although I did get feverish chills from the drugs.  We left the hospital a little over an hour later.
 
Today I feel fine and the only evidence of my ordeal is what appears to be a small burn mark on my right leg in the shape of a caterpillar.  I remember being stung by an asp when I was a child, but I never experienced anything like that.  I'm just glad its over and that we weren't so far out in the woods that it might have been worse.  My fiance did a great job of keeping a cool head and driving me to the hospital, and the emergency room staff in Bellville was friendly and competent.  I don't know what I would have done without them.
 
S.A.
Houston, Texas

October 20, 2003

Have had several Puss Caterpillars in my Garden, which is a Wildlife Habitat certified with both the NWF and Texas parks and wildlife. I took a beautiful photo of one the other day to place on my website. Then today I found a second Puss caterpillar because I sat down on a bench and it brushed my leg.
I'm well aware of the sting these caterpillars can give and give them the respect they demand, yet still admire them! The sting site came up with the usual bumps similar to a Bull Nettle sting and then the aching began to spread up through the top of my leg & abdomen. After I was stung I did press some tape to the area and pulled it off to remove any stinging hairs that remained then applied Essential Oil of Lavender to the area, also excellent for use with bee stings.
 
R.D. Bedford, Texas

October 19, 2003

Hey, my wife just got stung by one on our front porch. We live in central west Austin (near Deep Eddy pool). We have lots of trees.

L.R., Austin, Texas

October 18, 2003

Hi
We've lived here in Raymondville, Texas for 17 years and never have we seen one of these critters.  About  a week ago my father was outside and when he came inside to sit down, he felt a sting on his rear.  When we looked at (what stung him) we didn't know what it was but it caused pain all through his hips.  Today I was outside where we have lots of plants.  I was sitting down and when I got up, I felt a sting on my arm by my elbow.  Little by little the pain started to worsen and ran through my shoulder, we figured it was probably the same thing that had bitten my dad.  After a while the pain increased and all of my left arm was stinging and felt heavy.  It took about an hour for the pain to lessen. but now three hours later I still feel an awkward sensation, especially around my armpit. We looked at the critter and I looked it up online and it was the same as you show on your website.  It really helped to know more about it because there are a lot of trees and plants in our yard where they might be.  Your website was really helpful, thank you.  We are just scared that they might continue to appear without us knowing where they are.  I also wanted to know what were the risks of a child being stung by one?

E.V., Raymondville, Texas

October 17, 2003

Hi~
 
My 8 ; son was playing at Lost Creek Park in Sugar Land on October 16th and climbed a tree~  After he came down he started yelling~  Once we finally got the bug off of him he had 3 big bites on his underarm and 1 on his foot.  We picked up the bug with a stick and put it in a bug carrier.  There were some landscaping guys there and they said they had all been bit by one of those at one time or another and every time had a fever after the bite.  They told me because he had so many bites I should take him to my DR.  So off we went to the DR and she gave him a Steroid Shot and some Motrin~  Then she gave us a prescription for an oral steroid for 5 days and something for if it starts itching.  I did not take pictures of the initial bites but after I saw your site I took pictures of his bites that were 10 hours old.  My son & I really were amazed at the site (a friend that was with us found it)  and he made me print it off so we could read it.  Thank you for the information.

M.S., Missouri City, TX

October 16, 2003

Found your site through jeeves....

Anyhow my family and I Live in Coppell, Texas outside of Dallas. We are in an apartment that is surrounded by holly bushes. A few weeks ago I went onto our back porch and on the door frame was this curious looking brown mouse looking cacoon. I showed my three year old. I remembered enough filmstrips from grade school to know better than to touch furry looking insects... My son wont touch 'em

In the last few days I have seen at least one to two of these "varmints" on the brick or eaves of our apartments every day this week they all vary in size so I know they are not all the same one.

I was really curious and even captured one onto a piece of board. just to figure out what it was someone said maybe an asp...so I did a search and lo and behold puss caterpillar.

Thanks for your site. Amazingly decorated creatures....

Thanks for the warnings...

M.W., Coppell, Texas

October 13, 2003

Thank you for your informative website!
     In the last week we have found and killed 6 asps on our porch.  I may have made a mistake in stepping on them with my shoe and then not cleaning my shoe carefully.  I wasn't aware of the danger of the spines themselves until reading some of your reports. 
Will a vacuum pick up spines if I have brought some in?  How long will the individual spines be dangerous?
     We have lived here for nearly 8 yrs and have never seen more than one a year.  I don't know if 6 equals a infestation but the danger is obviously serious enough.  My small sons are now keenly aware of them and have heard about their terrible stings.  I was stung as a little girl and for a long time had a scar on my belly from the sting.  At the moment I cannot allow the kids on the porch at all given the perfect camouflage of the asps. 
What can I spray all over the porch, plants, trees and bushes that will be offensive to/ or kill asps but not ALSO be harmful to children?  I am not familiar with poisons of any kind.  You mention "organic pesticides" on your website.  Any suggestions you have would be appreciated. 
     Each time we walk out our front door we have to be careful.  We've found them above the door.  My kids were afraid they would drop on us and were deeply relieved to know they do not fly. 
Are they STILL dangerous once they have become moths???
What specifically attracts asps?...we've found them on painted wood, plastic pots, pottery pots, and bare wood.  
How long can I expect an infestation, if that is what I have, to last? 
If these questions are to much to answer, please just tell me how to get rid of the asps.
Again, Thanks!
W. T.
Fort Worth, Texas

October 13, 2003

I found one of  these caterpillars crawling up my garbage can day before yesterday. I did not know what it was so my neighbor checked your website and found it.  I found another one in its pupa state on my storm door today.  Another one was crawling up the pillar on my front porch.  All of these within the last 3 days. I am 65 years old and this is the first time I have ever seen one.  What amount would be an infestation?  I have no idea where they have come from.  I have a large oak tree in my front yard and two in the back.  The one in front has been there over 40 years. I also have a boron holly tree next door.  Recently the oak tree had a strange web appear on it. It went up the trunk all the way to the top.  Disappeared after a few days.  Please advise.  Thanks for your help.

P.T., Northwest Houston

October 13, 2003

I found your website today after doing some research on the internet about puss caterpillars. I have what I believe to be a severe infestation. In one 30 minute period, I recovered over 20 insects on my crepe myrtle tree. The next day I found an additional 20 or more, and today, I found them covering my yaupon holly bushes, my cottonwood, and the eaves of my house. I sprayed Dursban today in a effort to control the little buggers! We have contained several of them in a glass jar to show neighbors as several people have never been exposed to this insect. I, unfortunately was stung by one when I was young, and still vividly remember the incident.

I live in Haslet, Texas - north of Fort Worth near Alliance airport, just off of 35W.

A. H., Haslet, Texas

October 12, 2003

I was stung three times by two different puss caterpillars in Brazos Bend State Park today while sitting on a bench under and oak tree.  Could you verify that this was indeed a puss caterpillar.  I've attached pictures - hopefully they won't be too big for you to download.
 Thanks!
 T.S., Brazos Bend State Park, Texas

October 12, 2003

My Aunt found one in her back yard and showed it to us.  Me being one to touch everything, I did.  Surprisingly I did not get stung, don't ask me why not I "petted" it a couple of times and even squeezed it to pick it up but when it's back opened up to expose something underneath I decided to use a stick to pick it up.  I brought it home to see what it was and then proceeded to put it back in the yard when I did. By the way this was in Spring Branch, TX. Your site was helpful, thank you.

C.F., Spring Branch, Texas

October 11, 2003

I've just come in from the yard and found your web site. I have a tree full of them. We live off I-35 in south Ft Worth, Texas. It's been raining no more than we've seen showers before and this tree has been here for probably 12 years and we've been here for 6 and never seen them. we've had a lot of fire ants. but have had more and we have been treating them with Amdro and Orthene. Same as always.
Nothing is different from before. I'm going to leave them until we get some pesticide. What do you recommend? Nobody has touched them.

M.V., Fort Worth, Texas

October 11, 2003

We had an infestation of these little monsters this fall. Didn't know what they were, but our kids had been warned by other neighbor kids that these bugs had mean stings. It is amazing that none of the neighborhood kids were stung. Our hedge of dwarf yaupon holly was covered with them, and they were climbing the walls of the house. They were everywhere. We don't remember ever having seen them before (we've lived in this house 11 years). We sprayed all of the shrubs, trees, and house perimeter to rid ourselves of them. It wasn't until I found your website that I realized just how dangerous they were. Thanks for the informative website.

K.N. Austin, TX (close to 620 and 2222)

October 9, 2003

have never heard of these little creatures until last night. A co-worker got stung on the leg. It had crawled up his pant leg while he was inside the plant. We have no idea how it got inside. After about five hours or so, it was still irritating him, but had not started swelling. It is amazing these fuzzy little gremlin looking caterpillars can pack such a punch. I am  afraid to get it near water, they might multiply. Thanks for the information.

S.W.
New Orleans, LA

October 9, 2003

I got stung by one of these yesterday and ended up spending the afternoon in the doctor's office. The pain was incredible, though the one that got me was less than 1/4" long. They gave me steroids and an antibiotic, but it still hurts today. The building where I work is completely infested with these. They have decimated the bushes surrounding the building and have been spotted as high as on third floor windows. Some of them are well over an inch long. I'm located in St. Petersburg, FL and had never heard of these until I got stung yesterday. We've contacted building management and hopefully they'll be able to do something about it.

S.O., St. Petersburg, Florida

October 8, 2003

On Tuesday 6 Oct I found several puss caterpillars in Sull Ross park, across the street from Sull Ross school in Bryan. I was there with 3 other parents and too many young (5-8 yrs) kids when all of our children congregated at the far end of the picnic table with another father. They were looking (and poking) at what I only knew as a stinging caterpillar, that fell out of a post oak. I then found several on the playground equipment. We decided to leave. As we were standing up another one fell and hit the other father and got him on the upper arm and on his stomach, through his shirt. We came home, I told my wife about it, and she said she was" stung by an asp " as a child. I then started my search for more info to give to the school. I found this site today. I did not realize the little buggars are as nasty as they are. 

Regards,

P.A.H., Bryan, Texas

October 8, 2003

Today, my 5 year old was stung by one of these guys. She saw it on an oak tree and reached down to touch it (thinking it was fuzz). Immediately she screamed and it went down hill from there. I administered Motrin and Benadryl, but they gave her no relief. After about an hour we went to the doctor (with caterpillar in a ziploc bag) and they were able to identify it from the internet. She was given a topical steriod ointment and also steroid by mouth for three days. Any other treatment none? They did not do the tape procedure. Any chance the hairs are still in her hand and I should do it. It is now 10:00 pm and she was stung at 3:00 pm.

D.P.S., Gulfport, Mississippi

Follow-up msg rec. Oct. 9:

Thanks for your reply. A. was fascinated to look at all the pics on your site this morning, and somewhat proud of the fact that she encountered the most dangerous caterpillar in N. America! She did not sleep well last night, waking up thirsty and achy several times. This morning, her hand is still a little swollen, and the bright red lines are still prevalent in the joint where her middle finger meets the palm of her hand. Since we saved the wooly guy in a baggie, she wants to take him to school for show & tell tomorrow, but I am thinking the risk of other kids being stung is too high. By the way, the oral steroid given by our family dr. is Orapred 15mg/5ml, and with the Benadryl, seems to be helping. We appreciate the info. found on your site, keep up the good work. Thank Again, D.P.S.

October 8, 2003

Just had an unfortunate encounter with the puss caterpillar.  My friend was stung on his wrist.  Psuedo-paralysis and severe pain and nausea.  We are located in Polk City, Florida.  My son tells me he has seen many of these things around here.

S.F., Polk City, Florida

October 7, 2003

Hello,

I was stung by a puss caterpillar last night. I still have the little fellow in a plastic bag here at work with me. I brought it in and went online and discovered it is a puss caterpillar. The way I was stung is what is bothering me. I was changing into my night shirt and felt the sting on the small of my back. I thought I had been stung by a wasp that had got stuck in the house and crawled into my shirt. Only then I saw the furry thing on the floor. Today I still have some burning. I think the way he might have got into the house is, over the weekend I went out on our property (we have 1/2 acre) and picked pecans. This is the only way I think he may have been brought in. Who knows, but I'm not sure what to do with it. I want to kill it but my co-workers want me to let it go. Any suggestions?

 
D.Q. Houston, Texas

October 7, 2003

Yesterday, I was stung by a puss caterpillar. I put my arm on top of our picnic table and the caterpillar was under my arm. It stung me twice--I thought I put my arm on a jagged piece of wood and moved it, only to come in contact with the caterpillar a second time.
 
No joke, these HURT! My arm is still stinging after being stung at around 5 P.M. yesterday, and last night I experienced muscle cramps in my arm around the site.
 
We live in Crystal Beach, which is across the Intracoastal from Galveston. I am going to inspect the area again to see if more exist--where should I look? The one that stung me is still alive out there somewhere. What can be done to treat for these caterpillars?
 
Thanks very much for your web site. I had never seen such a bug and was very worried about what had bitten or stung me.
 
D.M., Crystal Beach, Texas

October 6, 2003

My two young children found one of these on a low branch in an oak tree in front of our house.  My 2 yr old was handling the furry little thing when she started complaining that an ant was in her finger. The pain seems to come and go, she says it's fine then complains of pain again.  I used some sticky tape to remove any of the hairs that might be there but couldn't see anything.  It has been a few hours now and so far she seems to be fine other than pain in her finger. I appreciate your site, thanks.

S.G., Kathleen, Florida 

October 5, 2003 :

My 8 year old son came into contact with a puss caterpillar at his school yard. He was pulling the leaves off of sucker sprouts at the base of a large oak tree, and accidentally grabbed a orangish furry caterpillar (we later identified it as a puss caterpillar thru pictures off the internet). Almost immediately his finger started to burn and ache. His after school care teacher promptly called me, told me he was stung by some type of caterpillar, and was in quite a bit of pain. She asked permission to give him some benadryl and tylenol to help control the pain. I told her to go ahead with both, she called back within 15 minutes, and told me he was still in quite a lot of pain, and now he had large red blotches on his back and his ears and neck were extremely red. His finger had swollen quite a bit as well.

I was able to get to the after school care program about 1.5 hours after he was stung. The redness on his ears and neck had reduced some, but was still quite prominent. The red blotches on his back had faded quite a bit by this time, and the pain was coming and going about every 15 minutes or so. I took him home and considered taking him to the emergency room, but after looking up several sources on the internet and identifying what he had been stung by, I was fairly confident his reaction to the sting was typical, and should fade within a few hours. About 3 hours after getting stung, he had a slight fever (99.9), and was slightly nauseaus, but the pain was fading. We used a facial peel and coated the area he was stung at in an effort to remove any stinging hairs still left, this seemed to cause more immediate relief.

After 6 hours, his fever was gone, he felt fine except for some local pain at the sting area on his finger. By the next morning, about 16 hours after getting stung, he was 100% back to normal. 

We didn't know these little guys even existed, much less how much pain they could inflict. We went back to the school and found several more at the same tree. I printed some pictures and information and gave it to the teachers at school. Your web site was very informational. Thank you.

C. H., Sattler, Texas (Northeast of San Antonio)

October 3, 2003

The Community College I teach at in Mount Pleasant, Texas, has an infestation of puss caterpillars on their shrubs. These are grayish in color with reddish brown tips on the hairs. They completely surround the leaf of the small shrubs (prob. dwarf yaupon). I teach Biology at night at the college, and these were pointed out to me last night. A student e-mailed me today with the identification.

R.G.L., Mount Pleasant, Texas

October 2, 2003 :

I was enjoying the early morning hours as I normally do (I am a day sleeper). I felt a tickle on my shoulder and when I reached back to scratch it, I pulled off this caterpillar. It left the now familiar mark on my neck. I treated it with rubbing alcohol and Neosporin and the pain was gone about 3 hours later. All swelling and redness were gone by the time I woke up, about 12 hours after being bitten. Luckily, I found the specimen after I had thrown it across the room, so I am positive that this is what got me.

B. (unknown location)

October 1, 2003

Jerry,
I ran across this website while looking up a bug I found crawling on my window.  I have identified it as the Puss Caterpillar by researching it on the internet.  My impression from reading on the internet is that this caterpillar is native to Texas and the western states.  I however live in Northwest Florida.  Perhaps the caterpillar is migrating east.  I just wanted to report my find to anybody. 
Thanks,
T.J., Northwest Florida

September 30, 2003

Jerry,

We have been invaded by Puss Caterpillars. We first noticed them on Thursday 25 of Sept. They are all over our Dwarf Yaupon Holly. I bet I have killed over 100 of the little fellers. All colors and sizes. We live a little north of Waxahachie Texas. Someone said you wanted this info.

R, Waxahachie, Texas

September 30, 2003

My 2-year old child was stung when he stepped on  what I believe was a puss caterpillar.  Within 15 minutes, his entire inner leg from foot to groin area turned red. I brought him to emergency room with the caterpillar.  Nobody there had ever seen one of these bugs. They just treated him for an allergic reaction to a sting.
Can you tell me the best way to get rid of these?

M.V., Louisiana

September 23, 2003

Hello,

My name is S. I am 40 years old and live in Gloucester Virginia. Thank you for your site and information on puss caterpillars. Saturday of last week two day after hurricane Isabel went through here, I went out to start our generator as we are without power. I am in fact using it to supply power to write this email and surf the internet. Anyway I reached down with my left hand to steady the generator and felt pain like I had just been stung. What I saw was the weirdest looking caterpillar I have ever seen. I have been stung by yellow jackets, honey bees, and jug hornets at least once and wasps so many times that I have lost count. But after last Saturday they pale in comparison to that caterpillar. I had muscle pain up and down my left arm for at least 6 hours, and my hand today being Monday although I have no pain is sore like muscle soreness. Hurricane Isabel it seems has blown all kinds of caterpillars out of the trees, where I live is rural and is all wooded. I have never seen that kind of caterpillar before, but you can be rest assured I will look out for it the next time. In anger after being stung I knocked it on the ground and stomped on it and smashed it. I wish that I hadn't now but after reading where you got stung in the eye maybe smashing it wasn't such a bad idea. I am writing just to let you know that here on the east coast of Virginia we have puss caterpillars also. To date after all the stings I have sustained, I have to rate the puss caterpillar the worst. Take care and thanks again for your web site, it helped me to identify what kind of caterpillar stung me.

S., Gloucester, Virginia

September 16, 2003

Dear Jerry,

I own a condo near the Beltway in Houston Texas .  My tenant called me with a complaint of these white cotton bugs on her patio.  I was surprised to see the number of bugs all over the patio, so many I was not able to get out on the patio.  I walked around to the outside of the unit to find that the entire side of the building is infested.  The bushes are thick with them and the fence is also covered.  What must I do to get rid of them?  I need help any suggestions?

B. H., Houston , Texas

September 14, 2003

While vacationing near the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, our son, age 11, was stung by one of these caterpillars.  He was leaning against a tree (unknown species) at a golf course, and accidentally touched it with his hand.  There was a lot of discomfort, which seemed to increase over the next several hours.  We found the caterpillar right away and kept it, because we didn't know what it was and thought it might be poisonous.  There was an outline of the shape at the sting site.  We ended up bringing our son to an emergency room, as benadryl and ice didn't seem to be having much effect.  The doctor was familiar with the insect and called it a wooly worm caterpillar, and removed a couple of spines from his hand, using tape.  Our son felt better with ibuprofen and was in pretty good shape the next day.  An older woman we spoke to at the golf course said that when she was a child, she had been stung by one of these caterpillars in the Baltimore area and her whole arm had swelled up.  So apparently these things have been around in the Maryland area for many years.  We are from upstate NY and had never seen anything like it before.  Thank you for your website.  We were happy to learn more about this nasty creature.  

P. H-S., Maryland

September 14, 2003 :

Thanks for your very informative article and pictures.  It helped me determine what it was that stung me.

I live near Cypress , TX and was cutting the lawn on 9/14/03 when I brushed against the lower limbs of our 5" dia Oak tree.  The caterpillar dropped on the collar of my t shirt and I got a slight sting on the neck which I of course rubbed.  This resulted in a really bad sting on my right thumb with the blood lesions and throbbing pain.  The pain in my thumb was intense and lasted for about 8 hours.  After researching and determining what and where the worm came from I collected another 3 specimens from the same tree and destroyed them.  I can't imagine my three year old getting stung.  We treat our fire ants fairly aggressively also, so that is probably why these caterpillars are around.  What a sting.

D.L.A., Cypress , Texas

September 5, 2003

While trimming some trees at my sister's house, I stopped for lunch and got in the truck.(11:00 am) Had a sharp pain on my right forearm and when I looked down at my shirt there was something furry there so I grabbed a rag and took it off my shirt. It was smashed pretty good.  Went home, washed the area and put tooth paste on it, then went back to work at sister's house and, when finished (1:00 pm) washed area down and put some benadryl cream on it was pounding and aching the throbbing lasted until about (4:00 pm) the affective area is about the (sting) size of a quarter, but a dollar bill size area has rash and aches.
 
R.S., Yulee, Florida

August 28, 2003

Hi,
We came across your web site while looking for information on the Puss Caterpillar. My son was envenomated earlier today and then he got a rash from the hairs this evening. He wants to be an entomologist when he grows up so he's always finding bugs and bringing them home. He found what we learned to be a mature puss caterpillar at PE and was showing it to some kids when another boy tried to kill it by grabbing my son's hand and making it squish in his fist. He got several pricks from the spines and his hand turned red and started swelling. He said the pain radiated up his arm. The school called the medics and they checked him out. He is allergic to Benadryl so they just made sure he was not having any kind of allergic reaction. We live in Northeast Alabama near Gadsden. Mr. Puss is now residing in my bathroom in a container.  He wants to keep it until it turns into a moth. But, from what I read it may take a while! Any info about this caterpillar and envenomation would be helpful.
 
Thanks,
 
M.M., Gadsden, Alabama

August 25, 2003

Hi Jerry

I was just looking at your website because I found some of these strange caterpillars in a tree over the weekend.  We were all touching it yesterday at a cookout because everyone was curious about what it was.  Now I'm a bit shocked to find out what it could have done to us!  This is the exact insect that we found and I was hoping you could give us some information on how to get rid of them.  They seem to be killing a lot of leaves on our trees.  Thank you!

N.N., Virginia

August 25, 2003

Read your info on these mean critters . A friend here in Tarpon Springs Florida was stung be one today while working in an oak tree. he brought it home with him. . we will keep it  in the glass jar. We gave him benadryl and ice and cortisone 1% cream . Another  person went to the ER this past week. thought you might be interested . What do they do in Texas for these caterpillars?

F.R., Tampa Bay, Florida

August 23, 2003

Don't know if you're looking for reports from only Texas or elsewhere, but we have just discovered them all over our Yaupon Hollies.  Hoping I caught them in time.
Location:  Birmingham, Alabama.

J. F.

July 27, 2003

My girlfriend was looking through my bushes and was stung by a puss caterpillar. We looked it up on the internet and found your site very helpful. You asked for reports of puss caterpillars in the area. Well, in about 45 mins we found around 30 of them in my bushes. I live in Pflugerville, and am responding to your request for reports. in the next email, I will include pictures. Any idea what is the best way to get rid of them? Thanks!

C. in Pflugerville, Texas

July 25, 2003

We have a serious infestation of puss caterpillars on our dwarf yaupon holly shrubs.  They are more abundant on those shrubs on the south side of our house.  This has been getting worse each of the past three years. 

Here's what happens.  In early fall something starts devouring all the leaves from the yaupon holly plants.  Within about three weeks practically all the leaves will be gone, leaving stems and branches exposed.  Then we notice what I've always called tree asps will start crawling all over the deck, window screens, and eaves of the house.  Within a few weeks these critters develop a hard shell and just seem to stick in place.  

I'm searching for a remedy for this problem before another fall of the year rolls around.  I'm glad I found your report online because it describes exactly what we're dealing with. Is there some process we can do now to avoid this horrible problem occurring again next fall?  Also, I'd like to know a little more about how puss caterpillars are reproduced. Do they lay eggs that lie dormant from one year to another, or are they started by some flying insect, etc.  For instance, I've noticed some light brown moths around the same yaupon holly bushes in late fall.  Could they be a carrier of puss caterpillars?

We live in Richardson, Texas.  I would appreciate any feedback you can provide on this matter.

Regards,

B.R., Richardson, Texas

July 13, 2003 :

Jerry, we are B. and S. L. of Grand Prairie , Texas . We have several of these caterpillars on our yaupon holly and they have demolished our Rose bush, it was beautiful now is almost leafless.. we have a tree, they were on it, but so far its not too damaged, B. has

sprayed an organic oil on everything..  we had never seen nor heard of this things.. they have left their droppings on our sidewalks, we didnt know what they were at first.. just thought we'd let you know, our neighbor has some in his yard also..

Sincerely... B & S.L., Grand Prairie, Texas

July 11, 2003

Hey Jerry

My mom was just stung she sat on one of these guys

she is in a lot of pain if you get this can you call her?
She is in Brownsville Tx.
She has done the tape thing you suggested and put ammonia on it
I am concerned because we will be visiting soon and I have two small children and am allergic to bees. I carry an epi pen
How can you get rid of these things?

Thanks, K.

PS: my mom's name is J.K.

NOTE: I called J.K. immediately, and we had a long conversation. The venom of the puss caterpillar has not been identified, but anaphylaxis has been reported, so persons with known reactions to bee stings should be very careful around them. Carrying an Epi-Pen is essential if you are susceptible. J.C.

July 9, 2003

Hello,
I found your site because I am unfortunately learning about pus caterpillars.  Yesterday morning, while weeding my grandmother's flower beds in Burnet, TX, I felt two stings one on the left arm and one on the left leg.  They were sharp but I ignored them and continued weeding.  About 5 minutes later I felt severe, buckling pain all over the left arm and in the left groin and armpit.  I backed up and realized that her shrubs were completely covered in caterpillars.  I didn't know what they were (not being from Texas) and I was concerned that the reaction was worsening so I went to the ER (I brought one of the caterpillars with me).  Unfortunately, at the ER I was not instructed to wash the area, so the poison really set in.  I have 5 areas of contact on my left arm and one on the left leg.  The arm looked a bit swollen, but the symptom I've been experiencing primarily is debilitating nerve pain.  The sites of the sting themselves don't really hurt, the pain is from the armpit to the finger tips.  It finally lessened about 3 hours ago (36 hours later) with 2 Vicodin, 2 benadryl, and 4 Ibuprofen.  I am now in mild to moderate discomfort.  Those suckers pack a mean punch!  I wonder if the toxin is a type of neurotoxin.
 
Well, that's my story,
T., Austin, Texas

July 8, 2003

Jerry,  I've found a 1/2 dozen of these little guys so far.  I'm attaching the pictures of them.  They have been on our burr oak tree.  Didn't know what it was, so we took pics and sent them to "What kind of caterpillar is this" web site.  They (whomever they are) identified it as a puss caterpillar, and was kind enough to send along some more info.  We have small children (3 & 4 yr old boys), so we'll be removing them carefully and sending them to live at the city dump, where we've promised the boys they'll find lots of goodies to eat.  Any way, here're some pictures to add to your collection.  Too bad it's such a toxic little thing.  It's awfully cute.
 
Thanks.....J.G.
           Harker Heights, TX

June 14, 2003

Jerry, 

Yes,06-14-'03 I had an encounter with the "PUSS CATERPILLAR"! OUCH!!!. I'm here in Denton county, city of Denton, TX.. This is day # 2(06-15-'03) of my "encounter". I'm OK so far. I'm located aprox. 1.5,south of the Golden Triangle Mall. Just wanted to report my "puss  caterpillar encounter" to ya.  

Thank you for your time.

R., Denton, Texas

May 31, 2003 :

Jerry,

Just read your article, and want to report a huge infestation of these furry caterpillars. Our home is in the North Pacific region of Costa Rica . We took some benedryl and are hoping for the best.

E. and B. D., Costa Rica

January 1, 2003 :

Hi, Saw that you are interested in these  disgusting  creatures.  Would  like to pass on some  information to  anyone  who  has  been stung by these caterpillars.  Four months  ago, I was  stung on my face by one.   The itchy, patchy scar  lasted for 4 months or until I decided it  was not going away by itself.   I started  applying benadryl ointment to the site  and  it  finally started  disappearing.   Not  completely gone but  looking  much better.   

N. B. (unknown location)

December 4, 2002

Hi from Florida. I have been puzzled by these cute little cuddly-looking things, and finally got out my bug ID book and discovered what they are. I figured any bug that cute would not be good to touch, so I haven't. We have several hanging around our deck, in various colors and designs. My favorites are the rust colored ones with lighter stripes. Do you know if their spines inflict harm on animals? My cat stepped on one recently but it didn't seem to faze her. 

D., Florida

November 19, 2002

Hi Jerry,

I was stung by a Puss Caterpillar in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida yesterday. It must have gotten on me when I was outside my office at work, I didn't know it until I went to the bathroom and it stung me on the back of my thigh. My whole leg was burning with a numbing sensation that extended all the way down to my foot. The pain/numbing sensation lasted a few hours, and then the pain was much milder after that. I'm not bothered by it today.

Best regards,

J.E., Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

November 11, 2002 :

I don't know if you're interested in sightings of the caterpillar outside of Texas .  I live next to a citrus grove in Arcadia , Florida .  I was stung tonight by a short tan colored caterpillar covered with silky looking hair.  It stung my thumb when I picked up a peice of wood it was crawling on.  This happened inside my house.  My thumb is red and feels like it's on fire.  The pain is radiating up my arm.  It just happened half an hour ago.  Hope it stops burning soon.

A. Y., Arcadia , Florida

October 29, 2002

Hi,

I work at a seabird sanctuary in Florida, close to St. Petersburg, on the Gulf coast. Right now we are experiencing a major infestation of puss caterpillars at our facility. We had a young child and a volunteer stung by them in the past two days. They are all over our fences, both free roaming and in cocoons. Do you have any environmentally friendly solutions to this problem, since we have birds that come into contact with these areas of infestation? Also, would you be able to give me an idea about their life cycle and why we are again having such a huge infestation at this time. We have been recently spraying for fire ants; could the decline in ants be facilitating a growth in caterpillar populations?

Any help that you could offer would be greatly appreciated because the sanctuary is frequented by the public daily and the staff is in contact with these insect throughout the day.
Thank you

A.A.
Outside Staff