Heads up, Floridians: Venomous puss caterpillars are back
The puss caterpillar, one of the most venomous insects in the U.S., has made its seasonal return to Florida.
When you first see a puss caterpillar, it looks a lot like a lucky rabbit’s foot or even the fuzzy ear of a stuffed teddy bear. But these fluffy insects are anything but sweet and cuddly.
Puss caterpillars are some of the most venomous insects in the United States. They tend to make two seasonal visits to Florida and other surrounding states, one in the spring and one during the fall.
According to experts, this insect has a sharp, poisonous spine that is hidden by its seemingly innocent fur.
One person who knows first hand how painful an encounter with the puss caterpillar can be is Bri Oteri of Dade City, Fla. She was hanging outside in early October when she suddenly felt an intense, fire-like burning sensation on her wrist.
“I was leaning on this wooden fence and immediately felt my wrist burning,” Oteri told Fox 35. “I started screaming for my brother to get it off me. He had no clue what was happening. It felt like fire ants in that moment. I looked down and saw this fuzzy thing moving across the wood.”
Paramedics were immediately called to the scene where they treated and cleaned her wound, but a few hours later, Oteri experienced pain like she had never felt before, according to Fox 35.
“I was watching my son practice and all of a sudden I couldn’t breathe. I thought I was going to pass out, and then came the pain,” she wrote in a now-viral Facebook post. “The pain was so excruciating I was hysterically crying in the hospital, pleading for the doctors and nurses to help me. Morphine didn’t even touch the pain.”
National Geographic warns that “a puss caterpillar sting feels like a bee sting, only worse. The pain immediately and rapidly gets worse after being stung, and can even make your bones hurt.”
Anyone who comes into contact with these insects is advised to apply ice packs to the affected area and cover it with a paste made of baking soda and water.
Ryan Shepard is a digital reporter for Gannett Media Group’s Florida team, based in West Palm Beach, Fla. Ryan’s stories, which run across digital, print and video platforms, are syndicated across the 22 Florida newspaper markets.