A Potentially Dangerous Caterpillar Species Is Becoming More Common Around Louisiana Homes

Louisiana is home to a great number of creepy-crawly creatures, such as the black widow, the brown recluse, and flying cockroaches that are commonly known as Palmetto bugs. But for the past few years, another insect pests has been appearing near people’s homes and in public areas of the state more and more frequently. This particular insect pest was not on anybody’s radar until it started to send residents to the hospital a few years back. This insect pest is officially known as Megalopyge opercularis, but they are more commonly known by a number of nicknames, such as asp caterpillars and puss caterpillars.

These caterpillars are pests to trees, but they are commonly encountered by residents within backyards. In addition to infesting trees, it is not uncommon for Louisiana residents to find these caterpillars within their home. Not long ago, public health officials in Louisiana began issuing alerts to parents concerning the danger that this caterpillar poses to children. And these alerts are well justified considering the several hospitalizations that have resulted from asp caterpillar envenomations within the state. For example, during the summer of 2016, a New Orlean’s resident, Jeremy Burson, sustained an asp caterpillar sting while working within his yard. The pain was excruciating, but Burson’s reaction to this caterpillar’s sting was not as serious as Logan Pergola’s reaction. Logan was rushed to the ER after he accidentally brushed up against the caterpillar’s venomous hairs while it had been resting on an oak tree near his home. Logan began shaking and had difficulty speaking to the doctors due to his symptoms, but he recovered rapidly.

The asp caterpillar has always been abundant within the southwest, but only recently has this caterpillar become an insect pest of concern in Louisiana. The asp caterpillar is North America’s most venomous caterpillar species and they are commonly found infesting shade trees and shrubbery around homes, schools and in parks. Louisiana is now seeing the second highest rate of asp caterpillar envenomations in the country behind Texas.

Have you ever sustained what you thought was an insect sting despite being unable to locate the insect responsible?

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