Wig-Looking Poisonous Caterpillars Can Inflict Pain, Officials Warn

First, it was murder hornets. Now it’s stinging caterpillars.

As if there wasn’t enough to worry about in 2020, foresters in Virginia are warning that if you see a caterpillar that looks like a wig on a tree, don’t touch it.

The Virginia Department of Forestry said it had received reports of hairy-looking puss caterpillars in eastern Virginia. Its hairs are attached to a poisonous gland, said Eric Day, of Virginia Tech’s Insect Identification Lab.

Touching it could cause a painful reaction, the severity of which can vary, Mr. Day said. Other symptoms can include pain that comes in waves, a rash, fever, muscle cramps or swollen glands, according to the University of Michigan.

Symptoms should be monitored and people who are stung should use their own judgment about seeking medical attention, Mr. Day said.

He recommended taking a picture of the caterpillar and showing a doctor if symptoms worsen.

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