Summary: With a mop of luxuriant hair, the Asp caterpillar may look like nothing more than a harmless, cute, furry bug, but don't be fooled this caterpillar packs a wallop.
With a series of venomous spines the Asp caterpillar sting can deliver a zap capable of causing instantaneous and severe pain along with nausea, vomiting, headaches and muscle cramps, itching, fever, and swollen glands. These symptoms, particularly the intense pain, are felt by the victim for between a few hours and several days, whilst a more mild discomfort may continue for up to a week after that. Best then, that you know what this caterpillar with the bite looks like, don't you think?
The Asp caterpillar, also known as the Puss caterpillar, is a very hairy caterpillar with fur that ranges in colour from white or pale blonde through to chesnut brown and a deep, slate gray. The body of the caterpillar narrows at its base and extends into a long, over-sized tail. Some Asp caterpillars have a dull orange streak running along the body. Typically, this caterpillar is a little over 1 inch in length although it may look much bigger because of its wild growth of hair.
The Asp caterpillar is the larvae of the Flannel Moth which has an equally odd appearance with hairy legs, black feet and long woolly hair that ranges from lemon to burnt orange in color. All in all an odd looking fellow that shouldn't be hard to miss.
The Asp, or Puss caterpillar goes by the offical moniker of Megalopyge opercularis. The Asp, United State's most poisonous caterpillar, is found mostly in Southeastern and South-central United States, Mexico and some of South America. The larvae appear in August through to September. The Asp enjoys feeding on oak, elm, sycamore and citrus trees and is also partial to a snack of roses and ivy. However, this is a yard insect that is usually found only a few at a time so any damage that it does to your plants and trees should be minimal.
Nevertheless, if the thought of its vicious sting is all the motivation that you need to get rid of this fleecy, fluffy fellow then proceed with caution. The best method to deal with just a few Asp caterpillars is by simply pulling on a pair of rubber gloves and picking them off one-by-one. Then place the captured caterpillars in a pail of soapy water to seal their fate. Once finished carefully clean the gloves and ensure that both water and caterpillar are flushed down the drain.
An alternative to this plucking technique is to use rosemary oil, a natural pesticide: place the oil in a squirty bottle and spray straight onto the caterpillars. It's not advisable to use traditional pesticides: although it will provide an immediate solution, re-infestation the following season is likely, as the pesticide will also kill the caterpillar's natural predators.
he best way to remove the Asp caterpillar's sting is by placing clean adhesive tape over the wound and peeling off. Repeat several times. An application of an ice pack may reduce the pain but a number of sting victims claim that a gauze compress of raw, chopped potato and grated ginger is more beneficial. The young, the elderly and anyone who suffers a severe reaction to any sting should seek immediate medical attention.
13 Oct 2010, 15:39
If we want to keep an asp as a class pet, how can we feed and water it? We
make sure the children do not touch it.
08 Nov 2010, 21:24
we have found a caterpillar just like that but it has no furry legs only
furry with a orange line on the back what is it?
Ask the Exterminator
09 Nov 2010, 15:10
I cannot ID without a photo. Send it via the "Ask a Question" link at the
top of the page.
11 Nov 2010, 10:12
i just got enventomated by an asp this morning by just picking up a piece
of trash to put in the bin, it burns, and stings, having trouble breathing,
must be a reaction, taking benedryl and trying the tape method to rid
myself of toxic hairs, not fun...be careful when dealing with foilage in
fall, it can hurt real bad.
16 Jan 2011, 00:23
that is a dumb thing to do keeping it as a class pet wth?? the old
fashioned way get one put it in alcohol and pin the dang thing to a board
for id purposes kids should be taught how to id it but not to keep as a
dang pet stupid!! maybe you should just go out and pick one up then you'd
28 Apr 2011, 13:33
I agree...bad idea having one anywhere near anyone's kids. I was stung on
my ankle while mowing last July, and was in severe pain immediately. I
applied adhesive tape several times, then put ice on the sight to make the
pain bearable. Later read to do the compress of chopped potatoes and
ginger...by this time the pain was shooting up my leg from my ankle and
into my groin and lower back. Once I put the compress on the sight, within
a couple of hours the pain subsided slowly from the lower back and groin,
back down the leg and by morning I was pain free. Pretty sure if I had
applied the compress sooner I would have avoided a lot of the discomfort,
as it really seemed to draw out the toxins. I'm thankful my kids didn't get
stung...get that thing out of your classroom!
28 Jun 2011, 20:19
is a IO moth rare in west virginia?
28 Jun 2011, 20:23
i aloso think that is a pretty bad idea having it as a class pet because
you will nevr know if that caterpillar will be able to inject poison into
those kids systems!
Ask the Exterminator
30 Jun 2011, 11:45
Io moths are common throughout eastern North America, north to southern
Canada. They range west to southern Arizona and south to Central America,
at least as far as Costa Rica.
01 Sep 2011, 18:55
I live in MS and I went to snap a limb off of our bush that one was on to
go show hubby.. and i got stung by another one. I had to go to the ER to
get shots. Was stung on the end of my finger and it swelled and turned
completely red up to my shoulder. It felt like fire and it has been 6 days
and still has a bad mark and itches like crazy. Our bushes in our front
yard are covered in them.(each about an inch apart from eachother) They are
even on our house and carport. My husband has lived in MS his whole life
and has never seen them before now. Nothing is killing them and my kids
have bad skin allergies as it is. :( I'm terrified to let them play
outside. Also they look like this except some even have an orange looking
mohawk down the back.
21 Apr 2013, 22:25
i live in Houston Texas, and have noticed the asp are everywhere. i have a
question though. Are the asp dangerous for animals? we just found one in
our house, and our kitten got a hold of it. She did not eat it but by the
time we picked it up, it had no hair and was dead. please let me know.
12 Jun 2013, 20:43
I was stung as a kid on my inner thigh. It took about 12 hours for the
venom to get out of my body. From what I remember, I was very sick. It
left a scar on my leg for several years with the imprint of the insect.
Stay away from those things. I also live in Houston.
05 Aug 2013, 20:27
I live in Houston and remember quite distinctly walking from my mother's
front door to my car with an umbrella in case one of the zillion asps in
her trees would fall on me....horrible. Last year we had them all over in
our trees and a flying insect smog spray (don't remember the brand)
eventually killed them all and now they are back again.
05 Nov 2013, 18:31
I live in Houston and accidentally leaned on one with one hand while
opening the mailbox with the other. I have never felt such pain in all my
life- I'd rather break a bone. I have another horrible infestation, and
nothing is killing them.
PS- I'm a 2nd grade teacher & it is beyond idiotic to have these in a
classroom. They can temporarily paralyze a child. I can't believe ANY
teacher would consider that?!?!
06 Sep 2014, 12:10
What school she teach at hell make sure my kids don't go there lol sum
self,hello think about what u are saying
07 Sep 2014, 23:17
They sure are cute and so fuzzy. Its a shame that they sting because im
sure lots of small kids see them and cant help trying to pick them up. If I
hadn't read this and come across one id probably have a hard time not
trying to pick it up myself. When they turn into moths do they still
I gotta agree its not very smart having one as a class pet. Better safe
than sorry with things like this. Besides a class pet u can never touch is
like so uncool and wouldn't be any fun for the kids anyways. They'd lose
08 Sep 2014, 17:54
Grew up in Ft Worth/Dallas area. Got hit by those little blitters twice.
Once on the hand and once on the ankle. I have been stung and bitten by a
lot of things, plant, animal and human (I am a retired cop)and none of
those hurt as bad as the asps. I still have a scar on my right hand from an
encounter. We had elm trees in the yard and it would get covered with them.
They would sometimes fall out of the trees as you walked under them. I
don't know if that was accidental or intentional but the pain didn't
differentiate between the two. I think the elm disease that killed a lot of
the elms in Dallas actually got rid of a lot of them but I do remember
seeing them on rose bushes too. At any rate, keep those darned things away
from children for sure. My arm was swollen for days, I had a red mark from
wrist to shoulder and the lymph glands stayed painful and swollen for
weeks. You can handle them, the only sting is those spines down their back
but when someone picks one up, it rolls into a ball with the stinging
spines sticking out all around. Kinda like a doughnut from hell.
12 Sep 2014, 15:42
lol, Funny the cop would make the doughnut comparison.
22 Oct 2014, 12:18
This past weekend while on a camping trip at Lake Texana in Edna, TX, I had
the misfortune of being stung in the arm twice. I did not realize the asp
was on the arm rest of the chair,when I sat down I moved my arm a couple
times to get situated and it stung me twice. It started stinging then
burning and eventually the pain went up into my armpit, my arm throbbed,
this was some of the worse pain and I have given birth naturally without
any epidural. I went up to the check in office and the security guy told me
to put chewed tobacco on it.He didn't mention to remove the hairs and I was
not aware that you needed to use tape and remove the hairs first, so I had
put a compress of chewing tobacco on it and wrapped it with gauze, with the
hairs still there. That was on for a few hours before I removed it. I was
in pain for a couple of days.