Bees, mosquitoes, and spiders aren't the only insects that can inflict a nasty sting or bite. The sting of the puss caterpillar, which is also known as the woolly slug, is poisonous. Just because the caterpillar looks cute doesn't mean it's harmless. That's why it's important to rid your garden or lawn of woolly-looking insects that are making themselves at home.

Information About the Puss Caterpillar

Puss caterpillars are slate gray, pale blonde, or reddish-brown in color. Generally about one inch in length, the hair of these caterpillars can make them look longer. Many people-especially children-don't realize that the insect has hollow, poison-filled spines mixed in with the hairs. If you touch the hairs, the spines can break through your skin, allowing entry for the venom. You can also get stung if you brush up against foliage where the insects are feeding.

The puss caterpillar generally feeds on the leaves of elk, oak, and sycamore trees, but it also likes rose and ivy. Although these hairy critters are found mostly in the southeastern states, sometimes the caterpillars are found in states farther north and west.

Common Symptoms of the Puss Caterpillar's Sting

Common symptoms following a puss caterpillar's sting include an itchy rash, red blotches on the skin, minor swelling, and sharp pain at the sting site. Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, headache, and swollen glands are other symptoms that can occur with the puss caterpillar's sting.

Dubbed one of the most venomous caterpillars in the U.S., you can have an adverse reaction to a single sting. Symptoms occur soon after being stung, with mild reactions normally lasting for a few hours up to several days. Fever and increased swelling and pain at the site of the bite may be signs of infection.

Less Common Reactions to the Puss Caterpillar's Sting

Although not common, in cases of an extreme allergic reaction, anaphylactic shock-a potentially lifethreatening condition-can occur, in which case you will need immediate emergency medical attention. Symptoms of analphylaxis include a swollen tongue, wheezing, trouble breathing, rapid pulse, and hives all over your body.

Children, who are attracted to the caterpillar and want to pet it because it looks cute and fuzzy, often have more severe reactions to puss-caterpillar poisoning from stings than adults. The elderly and individuals with chronic health conditions are more likely to experience complications from the insect's sting as well. More severe pain and swelling radiating up the arm from a sting on the hand can be symptoms of a severe hypersensitivity reaction.

Treatment for Puss-Caterpillar Stings

Treatment requires removing the broken-off spines from your skin using adhesive or cellophane tape or a commercial facial peel. Removal of the spines helps alleviate pain at the site of the sting. Washing the skin with soap and water afterward may remove some of the poison.

You can also reduce pain and prevent swelling by immediately applying an ice pack to the area. Additional home remedies to try include taking an over-the-counter oral antihistamine or applying calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to the bite site. Since these remedies aren't always effective, you may need to see a doctor for treatment if symptoms persist or worsen.

Need for Professional Pest-Control Help

Usually, you see only one or a few puss caterpillars at a time. If you find a number of caterpillars feeding on shrubs or the leaves of trees near where children normally play, you may need to hire a professional pest-control service to get rid of these lawn pests. After treating foliage, the pest-control technician will remove the dead caterpillars and dispose of them, since the spines can still cause stings if you touch them.

Pest-control professionals have knowledge about different kinds of insects and methods for getting rid of them. Most also have experience working with natural, non-toxic, and organic pesticides that are safer for use in areas where children and pets play.

If you are uncertain or concerned about what kind of caterpillars or other insects are invading trees or shrubs on your lawn, the professionals at Ace Walco Termite & Pest Control are happy to take a look and offer advice on how to manage the problem.

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