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Puss Caterpillar Stings; First Aid Measures, Reviews; Bugs In The News

Several years ago, in conjunction with research on the puss caterpillar, I asked visitors to my website for personal reports of experiences with puss caterpillar stings. Before long. thousands of emails poured in. Sting victims told how they, their spouses, small children, even babies, reacted to the stings. Many had visited clinics or emergency rooms, fearing a life-threatening reaction, and reported on the treatments, examinations, and diagnostic tests they received in such settings. A few described the first aid measures and home remedies they’d tried, and how well they worked. Some of these measures were said to provide immediate relief, shorten recovery time, speed up the removal of lingering blemishes, and reduce scarring. At first I read these reports with skepticism. But similar reports kept coming in. In parallel with all this I was receiving, with regularity, calls and e-mails from individuals who had recently been stung and were in pain, who were seeking information on how to deal with the stings. I realized that, by collecting such information, I had become morally responsible for sharing it, including the remedies that had been shared with me, as those measures might be of help to others. It is in that spirit that the following materials are made available here. Please note that I am not a physician, and nothing in the following pages should be used to diagnose or treat a medical condition, or to replace or supplant advice provided by a medical professional. [...]

Puss Caterpillar Stings–Appropriate Medical Interventions

Since it is common for puss caterpillar sting victims to go to nearby hospital emergency rooms for treatment, medical personnel should be familiar with this caterpillar and appropriate medical interventions. A list of websites that publish information for medical professionals on puss caterpillar stings and similar envenomations is provided below. All physicians, nurses, paramedics, and emergency medical technicians are advised to read through each of these papers well in advance of having to assist someone who has been stung by a puss caterpillar: [...]

Puss Caterpillars Don’t Always Sting

Though most of the reports I receive on puss caterpillars describe the excruciating pain their stings cause, some tell me how they touched, even played with, these caterpillars without receiving any ill effects. Often, the person reporting such an event seems to believe that they might be one of those fortunate individuals who happens to be immune from the puss caterpillar’s toxin. [...]

Puss Caterpillar or Asp — General Information

The puss caterpillar is the larva of an insect in the order Lepidoptera. More specifically, it is a flannel moth in the family Megalopygidae (megalo: a combining form with Greek roots meaning “large”; and pygidae: from a Greek word meaning “rump”; thus “exaggerated tail”, possibly a reference to the fact that these caterpillars often–but not always–trail a conspicuous tail of hairs. [...]

Exterminating Puss Caterpillars or Asps

The following is a step-by-step approach that the author has used and supervised. It should be followed in the sequence prescribed. 1. First, protect yourself and others. On discovering a puss caterpillar infestation, insure that you, your family, and others stay out of the area to avoid getting stung, until you are properly dressed and have appropriate treatment equipment with you. [...]

Natural Predators of the Puss Caterpillar or Asp

Puss caterpillars, larvae of the flannel moth (Megalopyge opercularis), are legendary for their potent stings. In fact, they are believed to have the stoutest, most painful venom known in the insect world. I’ve posted details about the puss caterpillar’s stinging apparatus on a separate page, but this page will discuss the natural predators of this caterpillar, and the extraordinary way these predators control it. [...]

The Stinging Apparatus of the Puss Caterpillar or Asp

The primary stinging apparatus of the puss caterpillar is vested in verrucae (warty projections adorned with sharp spines under a coat of ornamental hairs) that cover the entire dorsal body of the caterpillar. In the photograph below, we can see each individual verruca that punctuates the periphery of the animal’s ventral body. This particular caterpillar–obtained during a study I conducted in October and November of 2009 to identify the puss caterpillar’s natural predators–has been parasitized by a fly in the Tachinidae family; the parasitoid maggot(s) inside the caterpillar induce systemic changes that manifest in various ways. In this case the parasitoid larvae appear to induce an infection that inflames the anatomical structures leading to and from the verrucae, causing them to turn purplish-black, so they contrast sharply with the pale, surrounding tissues. [...]