Missouri conservation warns public about fuzzy venomous caterpillar

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ST. LOUIS – Do NOT pet this fuzzy caterpillar, it’s venomous!

The southern flannel moth caterpillar has been known to sting and can be found in the Ozarks, among other places.

The Missouri Department of Conservation said these caterpillars “do not actively attack people, but if you brush against these caterpillars, stinging hairs, hidden among nonstinging hairs or spines can penetrate your skin.” If a person is stung by a southern flannel moth caterpillar they could experience stinging, itching, burning, a rash, lesions, dermatitis, swelling, fever, or even nausea.

MDC said southern flannel moth caterpillars have seven pairs of prolegs which are “fleshy peglike legs along the abdominal segments,” and all other butterflies and moth caterpillars have five or fewer pairs of prolegs.

The department said there are other fuzzy caterpillars that have stinging hairs, but that does not mean every fuzzy caterpillar has the ability to sting. They advise people to leave them alone, dead or alive, no matter what.

The southern flannel moth caterpillar can be found statewide, but they are mostly in the southern and eastern parts, according to MDC.

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