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Hairy, Venomous Caterpillars Spotted In Virginia, Officials Warn Residents To Stay Away

RICHMOND, Md. (WJZ) -- Virginia forestry officials are warning residents about a hairy, venomous caterpillar spotted in the state.

In a post on Facebook Tuesday, Virginia Department of Forestry said to social distance from the puss caterpillars which have been spotted in Eastern counties. The caterpillar's "hair" are actually venomous spines.

"VDOF's forest health team has received reports of the puss caterpillar in a few eastern Virginia counties. The "hairs" of this caterpillar are actually venomous spines that cause a painful reaction if touched.

The caterpillars eat oak and elm leaves, but they can be found in parks or near structures. If you find the caterpillar, leave it alone and let its natural enemies control their populations— there are a number of other insects that will prey on them at different stages of their life cycle."

#SocialDistance away from this caterpillar! VDOF's forest health team has received reports of the puss caterpillar in...

Posted by Virginia Department of Forestry on Tuesday, October 6, 2020

These stinging caterpillars can also be found in Maryland.

According to the University of Maryland, it's one of the most painful stings to a human, worse than a wasp or bee.

The caterpillars are found where it feeds, on shade trees like elm, oak and sycamore.

If you're stung by one of these caterpillars, there's immediate pain and then it comes in waves. Itchiness and redness are also symptoms of the sting. Nausea, vomiting, symptoms of shock, fever, muscle cramps and swollen glands are also symptoms. You should call your doctor immediately.

In 2017, a Florida woman's 5-year-old son accidentally stepped on one as he played outside. Her Facebook post about the ordeal went viral.

Read more about these caterpillars on CBS News.

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