On our first full day in Florida, I was sitting outside enjoying the warm sun when my dad walked over and placed a ‘strange creature’ that he had found in the garden in front of me. I was immediately intrigued. I’ve always been that girl who would pick up bugs, capture frogs, and would chase her little sister with a snake in each hand (Sorry Julie). I certainly wasn’t afraid of a cute little caterpillar.
At one point my Dad joked that it was probably ‘one of those venomous caterpillars’. I scoffed. I snapped pictures, took some video, pet it, and even held it in my hand – no fear.
After spending a considerable amount of time exposing my skin to this furry little creature, I set it free, went to my ipad, opened up Google and typed in “Brown Furry Caterpillar”. Turns out, maybe I should have been afraid. Very afraid.
Turns out this guy was the moth Megalopyge opercularis (don’t ask me to pronounce that) or more commonly known as the puss caterpillar, who turns into the southern flannel moth.
It also turns out that he was, in fact, quite toxic. One of the first posts I found on him made my heart skip a beat:
“The Puss Caterpillar or woolly slug is the most poisonous caterpillar in the USA. This little monster will spit acid at any ‘attacker’ and is loaded with poisonous spines all over its body that cause extreme reactions on contact with human skin. Because these creatures can be mistaken for cotton balls as they are quite striking in appearance, people rashly pick them up and really suffer for it. This creepy crawler likes citrus trees, elms, oaks and many different garden plants, so do keep your eyes peeled.”
I was shocked. The more research I did told me that this little creature could have caused me intense, searing pain. Not to mention other symptoms like headaches, nausea, vomiting, shock like symptoms or respiratory stress. How I walked away unscathed by this little monster is a miracle. As I mentioned above, I took some video of him too, but before you watch please remember DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME, or if you ever come face to face with one of these. If you listen very closely you can even here my Dad joke about it being venomous. And my scoff. Guess I know better now!
Lesson learned, I won’t be picking up any strange insects any time soon. Cute, is not always cuddly.