Venomous puss caterpillars make seasonal return to Florida

(WSVN) - If you come across what appears to be an adorable ball of fluff in the grass, you may want to steer clear. It could be a venomous puss caterpillar — and they are making a return to the Sunshine State.

Known as the most venomous caterpillar species in the country, the puss caterpillar can cause severe pain when it comes into contact with humans and animals.

“A puss caterpillar sting feels like a bee sting, only worse,” University of Florida entomologist Don Hall tells National Geographic. “The pain immediately and rapidly gets worse after being stung, and can even make your bones hurt.”

According to Florida’s Poison Control Centers, the caterpillar is most active in Spring and Fall.

Reports of the caterpillar have been on the rise.

One man, Michael Dusk, found one in his backyard in Spring Hill, Florida, and learned first-hand how the tiny creatures can pack a painful punch.

Under the hairs of the caterpillar are venomous spines that can break off into the skin.

“It’s definitely incapacitating,” Dusk said. “It feels extremely painful.”

“Because of the way they look, they’re very attractive,” said Dr. Alfred Aleguas, the director of the Florida Poison Control Center in Tampa. “They call them puss caterpillars because it looks almost like a cat and it makes you want to touch them and see how soft they are. But they have some stinging hairs that the caterpillar uses as a way to protect itself.”

If you come in contact with the caterpillar, scientists recommend placing clear tape on the affected area to remove the spines, which will help decrease the pain.

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