By Tim Binnall
Wildlife officials in Virginia have issued a warning about hairy venomous caterpillars that produce a powerful and painful reaction when touched. According to the Virginia Department of Forestry, the deceptively diminutive creatures with the appropriately nightmarish name puss caterpillars have recently been spotted in several counties in the eastern part of the state. Somewhat resembling a tiny toupee, the fuzzy bug is far from adorable and, in fact, is one of the most venomous species of caterpillar in the United States by way of toxin which is easily transferred from its fur.
Cautioning that the insects "can be found in parks or near structures," the department advised residents "if you find the caterpillar, leave it alone and let its natural enemies control their populations— there are a number of other insects that will prey on them at different stages of their life cycle." Should an unfortunate individual come into contact with one of the creatures, experts say that they could suffer a variety of reactions including an initial intense wave of pain followed by possibly nausea, fever, vomiting, and muscle cramps.
"It was like nothing I'd ever experienced," recalled puss caterpillar victim Julie Hammer to a local television station, "it was excruciating. It did not let up at all." The experience was so intense that she wound up in the emergency room seeking treatment where "it felt like I was still being stung" during the entirety of her hospital visit. While experts are uncertain as to why the non-native insects have arrived in Virginia, given the strangeness that has been 2020, it's not altogether surprising. To that end, now we're left wondering what might happen if they tangled with a Murder Hornet.