STATEWIDE (WIS) - Many people don't know they exist at all, but venomous caterpillars are numerous here in South Carolina.
One Midlands child found out firsthand the little creatures can cause some serious pain.
Larson Westmoreland says, "I was scared. It's the most pain I've ever had. I've never had that much pain. I thought I was going to die."
All that was from a caterpillar. Larson Westmoreland was sitting on his friend's porch two weeks ago, when a Puss caterpillar got on his pants leg, then attached itself to his arm.
His friend knocked it off with a plastic bat. Westmoreland says, "Pains just started going up my arm, and like, you could just see this red rash just going up my arm."
Larson then started having shortness of breath, so he called his mom. Kimberly West says, "He was crying and just could barely talk, 'Mama, come get me,' so I just dropped the phone and ran."
While you may not be familiar with the Puss caterpillar, they are pretty common in South Carolina. This is the time of year - from about March to September - caterpillars are out feeding on leaves. Knowing what they look like can protect you and your family.
The Puss caterpillar is one of seven common stinging caterpillars.
Some other common stinging caterpillars are the saddleback, tussock moth, hag moth, Io moth, Isa moth, and spiny oak slug.
The caterpillars are equipped with stinging spines located over their bodies. Each spine is connected to a poison gland that injects venom when touched.
The reaction it has on your body depends on your immune system. The most common reaction is irritation, and your best defense is staying away from the creatures.
Children should be taught not to handle caterpillars unless they are recognized as harmless species.
Laurie Reid advises, "So if you see something crawling across, don't touch it, just be careful."
Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants will also prevent many brushes with these caterpillars while pruning trees and shrubbery or just taking a stroll through the woods.
Reported by Brandi Cummings with information from the Georgia Forestry Commission
Posted by Chantelle Janelle
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