Venomous Caterpillar Found In Pennsylvania

A venomous caterpillar has been spotted in Pennsylvania. The white hickory tussock moth caterpillar is from Canada and has been spotted in the central region of the state.

Anyone who sees one of the white hickory tussock moth caterpillars, do not touch it, a CBS Pittsburgh report urges. The venomous caterpillar also has fuzzy black spines. The spines contain venom which it uses to scare away predators. The black spines are known to irritate human skin and provoke a rather nasty rash.

The rash caused by the venomous caterpillar can be treated simply with lotion and ice.

The white hickory tussock moth was spotted along Montour Trail near the Frick House. Pennsylvania State College resident Bryant Martin said he and his son, aged five, learned the power of the caterpillar the hard way, Morning Call reported. Martin let the tussock moth crawl on his son’s hand on Sunday and a rash appeared just moments later.

The rash is only temporary, according to MedExpress doctor Joseph Betz.

The hickory tussock moth (HTM) is in the Arctiidae family, University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee researchers report. The Arctiidae group features moths which are often called “tigers” and whose caterpillars are deemed “wooly” — as in wooly worm.

An excerpt from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee venomous caterpillar report reads as follows.

“Despite an overlap in common names, the HTM is not in the same family as the white-marked tussock moth of previous BOTW fame. Arctiids have a thorax that comes equipped with a sound-producing organ. The moths ‘vocalize’ to attract mates and to defend against predators. Apparently, the moths taste awful and they emit ultrasonic clicks that advertise their identity and location to bats.”

After getting too close to the white marked tussock moth just one time, even bats avoid them. The clicking sounds reportedly cause bats to become confused. Arctiids have “ears” located on their thorax.

They are often in deciduous woods ranges which run across the North American continent diagonally from northeast to south-central – from Nova Scotia and Ontario and on into Texas and sometimes into the western region of a Wisconsin. Males and females of the species mate during the late spring. The coupling reportedly produces a massive number of eggs, from 50 to a few hundred. The eggs are deposited on the undersides of leaves.

HTMs are referred to as leaf skeletonizers because they eat all of the greenery between the veins of the leaves. Nut trees are popular haunts for the venomous caterpillars. They also like to dine on willow, elm, aspen, oak, and ash trees. The young insects are communal feeders but typically leave to nibble elsewhere before damage occurs to the tree. According to the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee report, adult white hickory tussock moth caterpillars do not eat anything at all.

The rash, which occurs after coming in contact with a venomous caterpillar, is reportedly akin to the burning and itching that often happens after touching stinging nettles. Gently dabbing calamine lotion or some ammonia onto the rash to soothe the burning and itching is commonly recommended. Place ice on the rash after the lotion treatment. Some individuals who contract the rash can also experience nausea or swelling, and should see a doctor.

The fuzzy black spikes, or setae, that cover the body of the venomous caterpillar are barbed and will quickly cause eye irritation if the rash comes into contact with that region of the face. HTMs can also reportedly bite the skin while causing the stinging rash.

[Photo via Twitter]