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One of the most poisonous caterpillars in the world was discovered in the USA: how to recognize it

The VDOF Forest Health Group received reports of a southern flannel moth caterpillar in several counties in eastern Virginia and other states in the United States. The "hair" of this caterpillar is actually poisonous spines that cause a painful reaction when touched. About it Virginia Forestry Department writes on Facebook.

Photo: Shutterstock

Caterpillars eat oak and elm leaves and can be found in parks or near buildings. If you find a caterpillar, leave it alone and let its natural enemies control your populations - there are a number of other insects that prey on them at different stages of their life cycle.

What are these caterpillars

The southern flannel moth is an attractive little moth best known for its caterpillar, which is one of the most venomous caterpillars in the world. Entnemdept.

The southern flannel moth is the most abundant of the five megalopygid species found in the southeastern United States.

Distribution and appearance

The southern flannel moth is found from New Jersey to Florida and west to Arkansas and Texas. It can often be found in Florida, but most of all in Texas.

There are probably five or six (in other studies 8-10) stages of larval development, their sizes reach from 1,5 mm to 4 cm. With each molt, the larvae become more and more “hairy”. At all stages of development, there are rows of tubercles (raised sclerites with diverging bristles) that bear hollow spines, each of which has a venom gland at the base. In the last stages, the spines are covered with long soft setae.

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Larvae of all ages, as well as exuvia, can bite, but the toxicity of the bites increases with the size of the larvae. Some people react more seriously to bites than others. It causes an immediate intense burning pain with the appearance of a red mesh, the pattern on the skin matches the pattern of the poisonous spines on the caterpillar. This is followed by edema and sometimes lymphadenopathy.

In addition to the characteristic localized symptoms, more general systemic manifestations may also occur, including headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, tachycardia, low blood pressure, seizures, abdominal pain, and muscle cramps.

There are several general guidelines for treating a bite. First of all, you need to remove the broken tips of the thorns from the skin with adhesive tape and apply an ice pack, apply hydrocortisone cream to the bite site. Oral antihistamines, systemic corticosteroids, and intravenous calcium gluconate may be required.

If you suspect that you have been exposed to the venom of a southern flannel butterfly, see your doctor.

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