It’s stinging caterpillar season in Texas, these are the ones to avoid

Don’t touch those hairy caterpillars you may start to see around San Antonio

Top left is Hickory tussock caterpillar, top right is Spiny oak slug caterpillar, bottom left is Puss caterpillar and bottom right is Saddleback caterpillar
Top left is Hickory tussock caterpillar, top right is Spiny oak slug caterpillar, bottom left is Puss caterpillar and bottom right is Saddleback caterpillar (KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – Stinging caterpillar season is starting back up in Texas and experts are warning that the insects are “here in big numbers.”

Touching certain stinging caterpillar species, like the buck moth caterpillar, spiny oak slug caterpillar, hickory tussock moth caterpillar, saddleback caterpillar and Io moth caterpillar, can cause contact rashes and painful reactions.

However, these caterpillars also turn into moths and butterflies which help pollinate Texas flowers, fruits and trees.

“A good rule of thumb is if a caterpillar looks ‘fuzzy’ - don’t touch it,” said AgriLife Extension specialist Molly Keck.

Asps, also known as puss moth caterpillars, are furry and fluffy looking, with different color variations. Touching them can cause a burning sensation and a rash that could be very itchy and may even require a trip to the emergency room, AgriLife Extension experts say.

Eek!! Stay away from these dangerous critters in San Antonio and South Texas

People will react differently to caterpillar toxins with some developing a more severe reaction than others. Different areas of the body may also have more or less severe reactions depending on the thickness of the skin in the area where you’re stung.

Spiny oak slug caterpillar (USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org)

Most of the time, the pain and rash will go away in hours, or sometimes days.

Other symptoms after a sting can include nausea, vomiting, headaches, respiratory stress or shock, according to a previous news release.

The caterpillars are typically prevalent in San Antonio from March through December.

Are the caterpillars a problem in your area?

AgriLife Extension specialist Mike Merchant said puss moth caterpillars can be controlled when they become abundant by spraying with a residual pesticide such as permethrin, cyfluthrin or similar sprays labeled for control of caterpillars on ornamental plants.

“The best solution to dealing with stinging caterpillars may just be educating adults and children on what these caterpillars are, what they look like, and the importance of not touching them with bare hands,” Merchant said.

The experts at AgriLife Extension say you should instead, enjoy the inchworms and fuzzy caterpillars from afar.


About the Author:

Mary Claire Patton has been a journalist with KSAT 12 since 2015. She has reported on several high-profile stories during her career at KSAT and specializes in trending news and things to do around Texas and San Antonio.