General, Research, Technology

Hairy caterpillars: who are they and why are they dangerous?

We know from the course of the school curriculum that inearly in their development, butterflies are caterpillars. Only over time they turn into pupae and subsequently acquire their beautiful appearance. For the most part, caterpillars are harmless to humans and animals. The most they can do is harm the plants. But among them there are poisonous species, after touching which people feel severe pain and ultimately risk being hospitalized. Recently, poisonous caterpillars have been seen in large numbers in the US state of Virginia. They can be easily confused with patches of soft wool because they look fluffy. But their appearance is deceiving - these creatures are very dangerous. As part of this article, I invite you to find out exactly what kind of caterpillars we are talking about, what exactly they are dangerous and how to recover if you accidentally touched them.

Cat moth caterpillar

Poisonous caterpillar

The unusual caterpillars were described in the scientificScience Alert. We are talking about the so-called caterpillars of the feline moth (Megalopyge opercularis). They are very common in the southeastern and central United States, as well as Mexico. On the territory of the state of Virginia, they were not particularly found, but in 2020 their number suddenly increased. It is impossible to stumble upon them in Russia, but lately the world is becoming unpredictable. Nobody really expected to see these creatures in Virginia either, but nature presented a surprise. And hardly anyone is happy about this surprise - the Internet is full of stories where these caterpillars became the cause of the terrible torment of many people.

The cat moth itself is also fluffy

According to the State Department of Forestry(VDOF), usually hairy caterpillars feed on oak and elm leaves. But sometimes they can be found in parks and near buildings. The back of these creatures is covered with long hair-like bristles. At an early stage, these bristles begin to curl strongly and from a distance, the caterpillars become like hairballs. Under this thick hairline, poisonous thorns are hidden, which are better for people and animals never to touch.

Hairy caterpillar Megalopyge opercularis

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Danger of caterpillars

What kind of poisonous substances are contained in thesethorns are not reported, but we know the consequences of contact with them. In almost all cases, at the site of contact with the thorns, people experience severe redness and swelling. Some people also experience severe headache, fever, nausea, rapid heart rate, cramps, and abdominal pain. As you can see, there is nothing good in contact with them.

Fortunately, most caterpillars are harmless.

In some cases, contact with hairycaterpillars can bring to the hospital. In 2018, one of these caterpillars fell from a tree on a 5-year-old girl, Adrie Chambers. The girl's hand became numb and she was taken to the hospital, where she was treated with steroids. In May 2017, a woman spoke about the aftermath of her 5-year-old son stepping on a poisonous caterpillar. Such accidents happen almost every year, but in the current one there are clearly many more. However, this is not surprising - 2020 will shock us with might and main.

Caterpillars often fall on clothing when falling from trees

There are no such poisonous caterpillars in Russia, but ifthey will appear or you will someday go to the USA, you need to be ready to meet these creatures. The first thing to do after contact with a hairy caterpillar is to glue a strip of tape to the skin and tear it off sharply. Thus, you can quickly get rid of poisonous thorns. If you feel unwell, of course, you should not self-medicate. After all, we already know perfectly well that most folk recipes do not bring any benefit? So if you come into contact with any poisonous animal or plant, it is best to go to the hospital as soon as possible.

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It is important to note that the caterpillars of the cat moth areFar from being one of a kind. Throughout Europe, as well as in Kazakhstan, Siberia and other regions of our planet, you can stumble upon the caterpillar of the kaya bear (Arctia caja). Most often they can be encountered from September to May. These long-haired black caterpillars can sting with kayin spines. Upon contact with them in humans and other mammals, the so-called lepidopterism occurs. This is the name of skin irritation in which severe itching occurs.