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.
The 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.