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There are over 25 species of caterpillars which sting. The one which causes the most sever reactions is the puss caterpillar of the megalopyge opercularis species. Symptoms can range from mild iteching and rash to swelling, sever localized pain, lesions or fever.

Stinging caterpillars are wormlike creatures covered with hollow hairs which contain mild poisons. they vary in size and color. Along with the puss caterpillar, which in addition to the symptoms above can cause numbness and nausea, many other types may cause reactions as well. Sibine stimulea, the saddleback caterpillar, automeris io, the io moth caterpillar, and norape ovina, the flannel moth caterpillar are stinging caterpillars to avoid. They are often found feeding on decidous tress and shrubs and are widely distributed across the southeastern and southcentral portions of the United States.

The majority of stinging caterpillars have poisons which will only result in mild itching or skin rash. Those listed above tend to have more severe consequences. When the caterpillar is touched, the hairs release the poison. This is released through any contact from purposeful handling to the accidental brush against a caterpillar. The first sign you may have of having been bitten is a mild rash or localized itching.

The best bet to avoid getting stung is to avoid stinging caterpillars. Spraying shrubs and trees which these caterpillars favor with a carbaryl containing insecticide will cut down on infestations. Always make sure your particular tree, plant or shrub is listed on the product label. If you develop any of the symptoms above, or know you have been bitten by a stinging caterpillar mild ice or anti-itch lotion sometimes helps until the irritation resolves. If you experience a sever reaction you should consult your physician.