A strange little insect that looks like a walking toupee and sprays poisonous pus from knife-like spikes is terrorizing Virginia this year, according to the state Department of Forestry (VDoF).
The poisonous pus larva is the larval form of the southern flannel moth (Megalopyge opercularis), and if you see one, stay away from it. Its “hair” is actually the backbone that makes it the most venomous larvae in the United States. A woman in New Kent County described the feeling of a “burning hot knife passing through the outside of my calf” as she brushed against one on the door of her car, according to The Daily Progress.
Pus larvae have appeared in Virginia before, according to VDoF. And they are found as far north as New Jersey. But they are much more common in Florida and in greatest abundance in West Texas, according to University of Florida. Eric Day, head of Virginia Tech̵
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Climate change has made the weather warmer in Virginia, as it has done over large parts of the country.
“With changes in our climate, we see some insects changing their population,” said Theresa Dellinger, another researcher at the same laboratory. told CNN. “But it’s too early to tell. Larvae, moths and butterflies all have cyclical periods, it’s about the right time and the right conditions.”
CNN reported that the larva’s venom is similar enough to bee stings that people who have bad allergic reactions to bees are likely to have bad reactions to the pus larva as well.
Virginia Tech announced one document about what to do if “stung” by a poisonous larva. Main steps: Wash the area to get rid of hair or harmful substances that are left over. Place tape over the area, then tear it off to pull out hair embedded in the skin. (Do this a few times, but use a new piece of tape each time.) Ice packs and steroid creams reduce swelling and make the sting less painful. And anyone who has had a bad reaction to insects in the past, or who was stung near the eyes, should contact a doctor immediately.
CNN reported that the plan so far is to let the larvae’s natural predators shrink their population in the state, but if they continue to spread unchecked, the state could possibly begin an extinction program.
Originally published on WordsSideKick.com.