Stinging caterpillars are making a return as warmer days arrive in Texas. Here’s how to identify them.

Asp Caterpillar (or Puss Caterpillar)
Asp Caterpillar (or Puss Caterpillar) (Courtesy of the University of Florida)

HOUSTON – Texans are prepared for a warm summer ahead, but mosquitoes won’t be the only pests invading patios and backyards this year.

Enter the stinging caterpillar. They may look fuzzy and cute at a distance but touching them will give you a rash or a bite that may be venomous.

Experts from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension say spring foliage brought an abundance of these caterpillars, with a few bringing irritating or venomous hairs.

Species of stinging caterpillars include the Buck Moth, Io Moth, Saddleback and Asp, also known as the Puss caterpillar. AgriLife experts warn that the puss caterpillar is the most venomous and painful, and if stung, it requires a trip to the ER.

So, next time you’re out barbecuing or hanging out with your kids in your backyard, be sure to identify a stinging caterpillar when you see one. Here’s a list of what to look out for:

Io Moth Caterpillar

Io Moth caterpillars are less venomous than other species, but they do pack a punch, according to Science Friday.

You will feel an instant pinch but the pain won’t warrant a doctor’s visit. Experts from Texas A&M AgriLife say an ice pack and anti-itch cream will do the treatment.

Io Moth Caterpillar
Io Moth Caterpillar (Courtesy of University of Florida)

Buck Moth Caterpillar

Buck Moth Caterpillars are darker in color and have identifying stingers than their counterparts, usually thriving in oak forests and willow trees, LSU’s Department of Agriculture said.

Their venomous stings travel to a human’s lymphatic nodes which sends an immediate rash and sweat glands, however most stings subside within four to eight hours.

Buck moth caterpillar, Genus Hemileuca.
(Photo Courtesy of Jeff Mitton)
Buck moth caterpillar, Genus Hemileuca. (Photo Courtesy of Jeff Mitton) (Courtesy of Jeff Mitton)

Saddleback Caterpillar

Commonly known as a “slug moth”, the Saddleback Caterpillar is native to most southern climates and can feast on certain types of plants, explained the University of Florida Department of Entomology.

They can be prevented the same way as mosquitoes as they do not like the smell of DEET from repellents. However, if stung, symptoms include gastrointestinal problems, migraines and asthma attacks.

Saddleback Caterpillar
Saddleback Caterpillar (Bartlett Arboretum & Gardens)

Asp or Puss Caterpillar

This type of stinging caterpillar thrives on Texas forests and grasslands and it is the most common caterpillar in backyards and porches. Texas A&M AgriLife experts warn about the dangers of this particular species if contact is made.

They can pose a health hazard to children, so it is important to teach them about the types of caterpillars in yards, experts say.

If stung, a rash will appear immediately in the form of tiny skin bumps or eczema. Other common symptoms include headache, nausea, and rarely, shock or respiratory stress.

Asp Caterpillar (or Puss Caterpillar)
Asp Caterpillar (or Puss Caterpillar) (Courtesy of the University of Florida)

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