Stinging Caterpillars Are Out Early

Normally I’m writing about stinging caterpillars in September or October, but this year the questions have started much earlier.

Puss caterpillars, or asps, are among the most painful of all insect stings. This photo shows them feeding on dwarf yaupon hollies.

Let me begin by saying, if you come across any type of caterpillar, leave it alone. Odds are it won’t be a pleasant experience if you try to handle it. Many people encounter them quite by accident, but that doesn’t help ease the pain.

I put up a post on Facebook a week ago as I identified an asp for one of my FB friends. That post and warning was read by more than 65,000 people – the single largest number of any post that I’m made so far in 2019. The stories those folks told in return recounted very painful times, many from their childhoods dating back 50 or more years ago.

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Most of these stinging caterpillars are larvae of various types of “flannel” moths. The ones I see most often are puss caterpillars (asps) on oaks, hollies and other plants, IO moth larvae and Hagg moth caterpillars. However, there are several others.

There is a great web page showing each of the types you may encounter in the southern US. While it’s from Tampa, Florida, the information is spot-on for all of us in Texas as well.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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