At first glance it may look like Donald Trump’s blonde wig, but make no mistake, if you see something similar, run very fast and look for help.
It is not a wig, it is actually a venomous caterpillar whose sting can land you in a medical emergency situation and eventually into hospital. If medical attention is not got immediately after the sting, the situation could get a lot worse and more complicated. They are known as asp caterpillars.
Asp caterpillars are wide-spread throughout the Americas, and while they do have population fluctuations from year to year, they aren’t new or an introduced species.
A report from Wired Science news maintains that while the effect of stings from these caterpillars varies from one person to another, the pain is extremely intense in general.
Are these little stinging tribbles really that dangerous? Some people seem to shake a sting off, but others end up in the emergency room. Why is there so much variation?
Fortunately, entomologists are curious people, and there is a long, distinguished history of rubbing stinging insects on yourself for science. The go-to person for entomological pain is Dr. Justin Schmidt, best known as the author of the Schmidt Pain Index; a ranking system calculated from the agony caused by a wide variety of wasps and bees stinging him during his research. While Schmidt hasn’t systematically studied caterpillars, he did say the pain of a caterpillar sting lasted longer than the pain of most wasp or bee stings.
Asp Caterpillars (Megalopyge opercularis) have a variety of nicknames: southern flannel moth, puss caterpillar, and the tree asp. They are considered the most highly venomous caterpillars in North America. The “hairs” of these caterpillars can break off and cause itching, but also hide an unpleasant surprise: sharp spines. The spines are connected to venom gland cells, and function like little hypodermic needles. The pain from injected venom is said to be intense, and lasts at least 12 hours.
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