Yes, these Caterpillars do not have stingers but do have spines (nettling hairs) connected to poison glands. When the caterpillar is touched or disturbed, a hair or spine will break off and release the poison into the skin.
The result is an intense burning sensation at the site of contact, accompanied by redness, swelling, and itching. The reactions can last anywhere from several hours to several days.
Which caterpillars are found in Florida?
The four major caterpillars in Florida are the puss caterpillar, saddleback caterpillar, Io moth caterpillar, and hag caterpillar.
The puss caterpillar (Megalopyge opercularis) is covered with soft gray-white fur. The spines are thick, short, and interspersed with longer hairs. It is often found on elm, oak, citrus, pecan, and other trees. This species has a painful sting.
The saddleback caterpillar (Acharia stimulea) uses its venomous bristles to protect itself from predation. When touched, the bristles penetrate the skin and release a poison that can cause severe pain and blistering. Saddleback caterpillars are most commonly found on southern Florida’s citrus trees and occur on other trees and shrubs.
The Io moth caterpillar (Automeris io) is a reddish-brown color with tubercles lined with groups of yellow or white spines. The spines are venomous and can produce a painful sting lasting for several days if touched by humans. They feed on plants in the legume family (Fabaceae).
The hag moth or monkey slug caterpillar (Phobetron perithecium) has bright orange-red bands on its body and long branched spines that give it a hairy appearance.
How can you tell if a caterpillar is poisonous?
At first, what you need to do is know where to look for these caterpillars. Harmful stinging caterpillars with a black body, bright white spots, and bright red or orange dots on their back can be found on and near oak and poplar trees.
Tiny bristles cover their entire body. These bristles are barbed, so they can easily pierce the skin, which then causes the poison to be released into your body. If you come across this type of caterpillar, walk away and find a new route.
One should also avoid handling any kind of caterpillar. When caterpillars are squished or played with too roughly, the bristle hairs can detach from the body and get stuck in the skin, which will cause an allergic reaction.
Are there any non-poisonous caterpillars in Florida?
All caterpillars in Florida are poisonous. They eat things that make them poisonous to their predators (such as birds, who can tolerate more poison than other animals). Some are more poisonous than others. The black caterpillar with yellow spots that you describe sounds like a monarch caterpillar. It is the most poisonous one in Florida. You should not touch it.
Even if they are not poisonous, Other caterpillars have bristles that can cause an allergic reaction or irritation when they come into contact with human skin. These include the saddleback caterpillar and the puss caterpillar (although this one also has poison glands).
Are fuzzy caterpillars in Florida poisonous?
Yes, some of these fuzzy caterpillars in Florida are poisonous. Experts say that the fuzzy caterpillar, also known as the puss caterpillar, is one of the most venomous insects in the United States.
The urticating hairs on the caterpillar’s body can be very irritating to human skin, said an entomologist from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. The hairs are like tiny little needles that break off easily when touched or disturbed.
In short, the answer is yes; caterpillars in Florida are poisonous. The venom usually takes its toll a few hours or even days after the actual physical contact with the caterpillar, so this generally will not pose any great emergency to people who have been stung by one.