ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) -- Experts are sounding the alarm about a hairy and deadly caterpillar that may be lurking in your yard just when you thought 2020 was all out of surprises.

“Within a few minutes it feels very noticeable, very painful,” said Dr. Nancy C. Hinkle, Professor of Entomology at UGA, while discussing what it is like to come into contact with the Puss caterpillar.

“Puss caterpillars are named after pussy cats because they’re so fuzzy, they look adorable, you want to pat them but don’t you dare because hiding under that fuzz is hollow hair that contains irritating substance,” said Dr. Hinkle.

People stung by the caterpillars describe excruciating pain, feeling as if their limbs are on fire and needing medical attention.

“A rather severe pain they say persists up to 12 hours, and again it’s a throbbing pain so you get the sensation, the heart pulsates,” said Dr. Hinkle.

A man in Georgia reported being stung only a week ago.

The caterpillars have tiny fiber optic like spines which can break off into your skin and continue releasing toxins for several hours prolonging the pain. Right now the hairy wrigglers are on the move as they’ve fattened up over summer and are getting ready to turn into moths.

If you are stung by one, “At that point you can treat symptomatically, a cold compress to reduce the swelling and you take a pain medication, whatever pill helps you with pain,” said Dr. Hinkle.

Experts say while the insects are not common, they also are not uncommon. Multiple states are reporting more sightings than normal. The caterpillars live on a variety of vegetation. And if by chance you do come into contact with the spines, you can pull them out gently; if they break use sticky tape to try and get the broken pieces out of your skin.

But of course the best course of action is to avoid touching the caterpillars, and worst case scenario, pay your physician a visit if necessary. 

Copyright 2020 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


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