Walking in the Virginia woods would make you encounter a seeming toupee, but is, in fact, a Megalopyge opercularis, otherwise known as a puss caterpillar.
These caterpillars appear as a fluffy cat that inspired its name but very tiny. They become a fuzzy moth when transformed inside a cocoon.
Do not be fooled by its warm and fuzzy looks. Venomous spines await below its shaggy coat, making it the most dangerous caterpillar in the US.
According to The Rainforest Site, puss caterpillars have been invading Virginia and were sighted across the state. These caterpillars used to be rare in the area, but experts suspect they are now in the middle of an outbreak.
The puss caterpillar stretches to an inch with numerous varieties in color and kind of hair. Some caterpillars have wavy hair, while others are straight. They also vary in color, such as gray, white, and brown.
Caterpillars of this type are typically found in Missouri, Florida, and Texas. Yet, the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) shared on Facebook that numerous puss caterpillars have been seen in the state.
“#SocialDistance away from this caterpillar!” VDOF warned in the Facebook post.
“VDOF’s forest health team has received reports of the puss caterpillar in a few eastern Virginia counties. If you find the caterpillar, leave it alone and let its natural enemies control their populations. Several other insects will prey on them at different stages of their life cycle,” the department stated.
Mild to severe symptoms can occur when you come in contact with the most venomous caterpillar. Most victims suffer fever, swelling, and vomiting.
VDOF hopes no intervention is needed to control the outbreak. The department expects natural predators would keep the caterpillar population under control.
The outbreak became massive; the caterpillars were also seen in Georgia, as reported by CBS46 Atlanta.