Fuzzy venomous Canadian caterpillar spotted in the US

It may look like a cute and cuddly little white insect, but it’s actually an invasive and venomous larvae that can cause an unpleasant skin rash. While it’s typically found only in Canada, the creature has recently been spotted in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Known as the white hickory tussock moth, the mostly-white insect has fuzzy black spines which contain venom in order to ward off predators. However, the Associated Press (AP) pointed out that that toxin can also irritate human skin, causing a rash on contact.

While the spines can become embedded into your skin, leading to the rash, pest control experts state that in most cases the condition can be treated with conventional anti-rash medication and ice. If symptoms persist, however, they recommend going to the doctor for treatment. If you see this fuzzy little critter– turn and run.

The white hickory tussock moth caterpillars have been spotted in Akron, Ohio, as well as in the cities of Pittsburgh and State Colleague, Pennsylvania, reports indicate. The good news, KDKA TV in Pittsburgh said, is that their caterpillar cycle is almost over, meaning that they should soon no longer be a threat, and by next spring, they will have all transformed into moths.

More about the white hickory tussock moth

White hickory tussock moths (Lophocampa caryae) are members of the Arctiidae family, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee explained, and while they typically can be found in Nova Scotia and Ontario, they also have been spotted as far south as Texas. They tend to be active in the daytime, and produce vocalizations to attract mates and ward off predators.

Like other poisonous creatures, it advertises the fact that it is toxic through aposematic coloration, warning potential predators that they’d be better off finding a meal elsewhere. Apparently, that’s true for other reasons as well, as white hickory tussock moths can bite and taste terrible (though this has not been independently verified).

These caterpillars pupate in late summer and spend the winter months in an silk cocoon shaped like an egg. They tend to spin their cocoons either on the ground or under tree bark, according to the university, and shed their skin five or six times during their development cycle. Near the end of this phase, they grow a layer of tiny hairs on the outside of the cocoon for protection.

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Image credit: Thinkstock

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