Both naturalists and doctors are warning people about a caterpillar that may appear beautiful to some individuals but is dangerous.
The hickory tussock moth caterpillar is generally white in color with some black spots, with legs that are completely covered in grayish hair.
Its body is covered with fine hairs that are not as pleasant to the touch as they appear.
Almost as soon as you touch the hairs, a painful rash will appear on the affected skin.
This is because the tufts of hair towards its front and back are connected to glands that emit a poisonous chemical.
The hairs are hollow, allowing the passage of the chemical that produces an itchy rash similar to that caused by the stinging nettle.
Sensitive individuals, especially those suffering from allergies, may get an inflammation on the affected area and feel nauseated.
The chemical attack is the caterpillar’s defense mechanism.
In addition, the hairs are barbed, which can prove particularly dangerous when they get into the eyes.
The bristle-like hairs spread out in tufts from the caterpillar’s back.
Four long, black hairs – two at the front and two at the back – are the most dangerous ones when it comes to injecting the harmful chemical.
The caterpillar’s natural habitat is Canada, but people have spotted it in different parts of the US. Doctors are especially warning people with children to keep them from picking up or even touching the bug.
Those who have had an unpleasant encounter with the caterpillar can sooth the irritation using calamine lotion and ice.
It is also helpful to clean the affected area with clean water and soap.
Other helpful measures include:
- Dabbing the area with ammonia or calamine lotion
- Taking antihistamines
- Or adding a little ice
Thankfully, the hickory tussock moth caterpillar does not remain dangerous for long, as it soon forms a cocoon.