Small-bodied and slow moving, the Asp Caterpillar seems harmless. Covered in fluffy hair, you may even think it looks cute. But appearances can be deceiving.
You see, hiding within the Asp’s wavy hair are dozens of small spines, each one functioning like a hypodermic needle. These spines are attached to glands filled with venom, and the moment they touch your skin they immediately start injecting the toxin. And their poison packs a punch.
The AACC calls it "one of the most toxic caterpillars in North America."
There are countless online reports of Asp Caterpillar stings resulting in hours of “severe pain” and trips to the emergency room. An entomologist from the University of Florida once described the sting he received from a baby Asp as “a deep aching pain [that] goes all the way to the bone,” and some victims have still felt pain several days after being stung. The AACC calls it “one of the most toxic caterpillars in North America.”
In short, the Asp caterpillar is terrifying.
If you’re a resident of a southeastern State, the threat of the Asp is also very real. That’s why we put together this forensic profile of the nasty little critter. The information below might just save you from a night of extreme pain.
What is it?
The Asp Caterpillar is the larval form of the Southern Flannel Moth
The Asp Caterpillar, also known as the Puss caterpillar, is the larval form of the Southern Flannel Moth (Megalopyge opercularis). They resemble a “teardrop-shaped tuft of cotton”, and their long, silky hair is typically colored white, tan, or reddish-brown. At maturity, the caterpillar is 1 to 1.5 inches long with seven pairs of legs towards the rear of its body. Once the Caterpillar has transformed into a moth it is no longer venomous.
Where do they live?
Asp Caterpillars are typically only found in the south-east, particularly in Texas, Florida, and Louisiana. They live in trees and bushes, so can typically be found in your garden, yard, or local park. Asps love to feed on oak, maple, elm and sycamore trees, and have been known to fall from high branches on to passersby. They are especially abundant from September to November.
While reactions to envenomation by an Asp vary, symptoms typically include swelling, burning, severe pain, nausea and headache. Hemorrhagic papules will also usually appear on the skin.
The first thing you should do if you suspect you’ve been stung by an Asp is clean the wound with soap and water and remove any spines still attached to the skin. Adhesive tape is an effective method for removing spines. Applying an ice pack to the wound will help reduce pain and swelling, as will a hydrocortisone cream. Oral antihistamine medication can also help.
If the pain is very intense you might require further treatment. If you are having trouble breathing you should seek medical attention immediately, as you could be going in to anaphylactic shock.
How do I keep my yard Asp-free?
Most pest control experts recommend hand-picking as the first method to employ when wanting to remove Asps (or any other caterpillar) from your yard. You need to avoid direct skin contact, so don’t forget to don thick rubber gloves before touching an Asp. It’s a good idea to put the caterpillars you collect in a bucket of soap water, before disposing of the water directly down the drain. Afterwards, clean the gloves you used carefully as there may be some loose spines stuck to the rubber.
There are other methods recommended by professional pest control experts for removing caterpillars, but they vary depending on the company you hire.
If you'd like to find a local pest control expert that can help, try using EZBZ – the free concierge service. Our concierge team can help you find and compare reputable pest control companies in your area. Try it out today by downloading the EZBZ app or by calling us on 1855-461-8619 for a local recommendation.
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