(KXAN) – They might look cute and fuzzy, but this is one caterpillar you’ll want to stay away from.
As the seasons change, the Texas Asp is making an appearance once again.
KXAN News Meteorologist Nick Bannin spoke with Dr. Santos Portugal with ABC Home & Commercial Services to learn more about the insect and talk about the dangers that come with it.
Bannin: Dr. Portugal, we’re getting some reports of the Texas Asp. What is that? And why are they a little scary?
Dr. Portugal: We’re starting to see them come out a lot right now. What they are is they’re a caterpillar. They’re very hairy little caterpillars—a southern flannel moth or a puss caterpillar, as they’re called in other parts of the country. But one of the big concerns about these is they can cause a little bit of damage. They can be painful when touched, and we run into issues with that quite frequently.
Bannin: Where are they typically found, and sort of, what time of year do we get them?
Portugal: The adult moths, which again, are fuzzy as well, come out in springtime. They lay their eggs in trees and shrubs, and then this time of year, late summer/early fall, they start to emerge again. You can find them quite frequently associated with vegetation — plants, shrubs — is where you’re typically going to find them.
Bannin: Are they typically in people’s yards? Should we be worried about them as we’re out mowing the lawn?
Portugal: Typically, I’ve seen them more associated with bushes and trees and shrubs, and they’re just a normal part of the environment.
Bannin: Now, you mentioned that they are a little scary because they can be rather painful. What is the pain that they’re inflicting on you if they’re on you?
Portugal: So, they actually have a defensive venom, and those bristles — the hairy body — whenever you touch that… what it’s doing is defending itself by injecting you with a venom. And this venom causes intense burning and pain almost immediately. Sometimes they can actually result in hospitalizations.
Bannin: When do you know if you’ve been bitten by the Texas Asp that you need to go to the hospital?
Portugal: You know, that’s always going to be a judgment call. If you don’t deem your normal pain management as being sufficient, and you need to make that judgment call — to go to the hospital — then, by all means, do so. That’s going to be up from person to person, but I will say, though, it is an intense pain that is felt rather quickly.
Bannin: Is it a sting? Is it a bite? How would you classify what it’s doing to your skin?
Portugal: I would say closer to a sting. It’s the hairs on its body that are actually injecting that venom. So again, just by touching it, whether accidentally or on purpose, this caterpillar is using its defensive secretions to protect itself and also happens to injure us when we touch it.