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Stinging buck moth caterpillars active in some states

buckmoth.jpg
Posted at 10:10 AM, Apr 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-25 17:51:02-04

STARKVILLE, MISS. (AP) - It's stinging caterpillar season in Mississippi and Louisiana - spiny buck moth caterpillars are out and about. The Mississippi State University Extension Service put out a statement Tuesday about buck moth caterpillars, which the LSU AgCenter says can be found from east Texas to Florida and up the East Coast to Maine.

The 2-inch-long critters are fearsome-looking, armed with rows of branched spines. Those connect to glands producing venom so potent that even a glancing touch from a falling buck-moth caterpillar can bring on instant pain and swelling.

"I have met several people who had roughly caterpillar-shaped scars from encounters with these caterpillars," Mississippi State entomologist Blake Layton said in a news release. "Such stings usually occur when someone inadvertently sits on a caterpillar while wearing shorts, rests a forearm on one or has one crawl down their collar."

They can be found from east Texas to Florida and up the East Coast to Maine, according to the LSU AgCenter.

Mississippi extension service entomologist Blake Layton says bug sprays don't work well against big stinging caterpillars of any sort. He says the best defense is to simply be aware of the caterpillar's presence and avoid close contact.

"At this point, it is difficult to say if this is an outbreak year, but I have received a few more inquiries than usual" about the caterpillars, he said.

April and May are the usual months for the caterpillars in Louisiana and Mississippi. In Alabama, they show up in May and June, according to an Auburn University entomologist.

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