The caterpillar is a native of the southwestern United States, and it gets its name from the layer of fur that covers its body. Many people describe it as looking like a “tiny Persian cat.” On the outside, this insect might seem cut and fuzzy, however despite how fascinating this insect looks, it is not a bug you want your children to be playing with.
This is because, underneath the layer of fur, this caterpillar packs a layer of sharp venomous spines. One touch and a curious child, rambunctious pet, or unaware adult can be injected with the venom equivalent of anywhere between as mild as a bee sting to the burning sensation of a jellyfish bite.
When the caterpillar is touched, it releases barbs that are propelled like harpoons into the human touching it’s skin or the pet’s nose or paws. While these barbs can be easily removed — usually by applying scotch tape to the enflamed area and using the sticky side to yank the barbs out — it is still recommended people immediately visit their doctor.
The venom, when injected, travels through a person’s blood stream, beginning usually in a person’s hand (where they touched the caterpillar) and slowly traveling up the arm. Imagine a painful throbbing which starts at an injection point and then creeps away from that site until the entire arm is enflamed and in pain.
The Puss Caterpillar is fairly common. Most of the time they spend their time in the tops of the trees and go completely unnoticed by people. But there have be instances in Florida, Georgia, and Texas where people have come across this insect on the ground. Frequently people come across the Puss Caterpillar after a rain storm or heavy winds.
Fortunately most of the time, these caterpillars stay in the tops of the trees. And like all moths and butterflies, the time the Puss Caterpillar spends creeping around is short. Only enough time to eat enough vegetation to create a cocoon and metamorphosis into its end result. The cocoon of the Puss Caterpillar blends the wood coloration of a stick and is naturally hidden from predators. After it emerges from the cocoon, the caterpillar becomes a moth — in this case the Flannel Moth, which like most moths, is nocturnal. It retains its furry appearance, but loses its venom.