The pale tussock moth caterpillars have hairy bodies, the bristles are not sharp or barbed, and they are not poisonous or venomous. However, people experience an allergic reaction to the hairs.
Some people may experience an allergic reaction if they touch a pale tussock moth caterpillar. The reaction may include skin irritation and itchy welts at the site of contact. Don’t touch any caterpillar without proper protection to avoid such a reaction.
In addition to the body hairs, pale tussock moth caterpillars also have tufts of long hairs on their heads and tails that can break off easily when touched and stick to the skin.
Does pale tussock moth caterpillar cause rashes?
Many caterpillars have hair or bristles on their bodies. When these become airborne, they can be inhaled or stick to your skin. This can cause irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat or an itchy rash on your skin.
Exposure to body hairs on the pale tussock moth can cause skin irritation. Furthermore, when there are many cocoons and caterpillars, it can be enough to trigger a rash in especially sensitive people when the hairs are airborne.
How big is a pale tussock?
Pale tussock caterpillars have been found in a wide range of habitats throughout the Northeast, including fields, forests, marshes, and wetlands. They are most often seen in the fall in agricultural fields, roadsides, and pastures. Common hosts include maple, oak, elm, and birch trees.
Fully-grown larvae are 1-1.5 inches long. The body is dark brown with irregular white spots and two long orange tufts near the head and one on the tail. Mature larvae have four rows of black spines; each spine has a bright orange base. Pale tussock caterpillars may be confused with fall webworms, but pale tussocks do not spin webs around leaves.
Can you hold a tussock moth caterpillar?
Tussock moth caterpillars may look soft, but do not touch them. Tussock moths – a family of moths in the order Lepidoptera – are known for the irritating bristles on their caterpillars.
The spines can cause inflammation, skin rashes, and eye irritation and can also cause more serious reactions in people who are highly sensitive to them.
This is true even if the caterpillar is dead. According to the CDC, a dead tussock moth caterpillar was responsible for a rash that covered 90 percent of a man’s body, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Tussock moth caterpillar rash treatment
People who brush against the caterpillars may experience intense itching, redness, and pain at the site of the contact. If you’re unlucky enough to have an unpleasant encounter with one of these caterpillars, follow these steps to reduce pain and swelling.
Apply ice to the affected skin. Swelling is a common reaction to tussock moth stings. To reduce swelling and pain, apply an ice pack. Try putting crushed ice in a plastic bag, or use frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth. Apply the ice pack on the area that is affected for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day.
Make a paste with baking soda and water and apply it to the affected skin to reduce itching. One possible solution to these painful reactions is to apply hydrocortisone cream, though you should take an oral antihistamine like Benadryl if the reaction worsens.
Is the white-marked tussock moth caterpillar poisonous?
There is no evidence that the white-marked tussock moth caterpillar is poisonous. The caterpillars can cause rashes, but they are not poisonous to the touch.
The caterpillars are covered with hair that can irritate the skin of some individuals and cause an allergic reaction that may include itching, hives, and a rash. The caterpillars have white and black hairs on their body that may be irritating to some people’s skin.