The southern flannel moth, Megalopyge opercularis (J. E. Smith) (Insecta: Lepidoptera: Zygaenoidea: Megalopygidae), is an attractive small moth that is best-known because of its larva, the puss caterpillar, which is one of the most venomous caterpillars in the United States (Bishopp 1923, El-Mallakh et al. 1986, Hossler 2010, Khalaf 1975).
The bodies of late instar puss caterpillars are normally completely hidden from sight by the thick coating of hair (setae). However, the head and prothorax may be exposed when the larvae are moving about or occasionally when feeding.
Unlike most other moth larvae, megalopygid larvae have seven pairs of prolegs. Megalopygids have accessory prolegs on abdominal segments two and seven in addition to the normal complement of prolegs on abdominal segments three through six and ten. The accessory prolegs of all North American species of megalopygids, including the puss caterpillar, have no crochets (Stehr 1987, Wagner 2005).
The southern flannel moth is bivoltine (has two broods per year) with a possible partial third brood in the Deep South (Khalaf 1975). Eagleman (2008) presented epidemiological evidence for two major broods by plotting the chronological distribution of puss caterpillar envenomations for a three year period. His data showed two distinct peaks - one developing in early summer and the second in the fall.
Larvae of the southern flannel moth are polyphagous (Heppner 1997) and are recorded from plant species belonging to 41 genera (Heppner 2003). Some host records may be erroneous. Like many other Lepidoptera larvae, mature puss caterpillars sometimes wander from the host plant and onto other nearby plants prior to spinning their cocoons. Cocoons may even be found on buildings.
In north central Florida, puss caterpillars are most common on various species of oaks but are also common on elms - including both native species and the exotic Chinese elm, Ulmus parvifolia Jacquin. Young larvae feed by skeletonizing leaves (Figure 9) and later eat small holes in the leaves. Late instars are leaf-edge feeders and curl the front of the thorax over the leaves as they feed (Figures 12 and 13). Khalaf (1974) reared larvae on a wheat germ artificial diet and reported ranges of times required for development of two different sets of first generation larvae of 63 to 97 and 53 to 87 days.
Occasionally, in outbreak years, puss caterpillars are sufficiently numerous to defoliate some trees (Bishopp 1923). However, their main importance is medical. In Texas, they have been so numerous in some years that schools in San Antonio in 1923 and Galveston in 1951 were closed temporarily because of stings to children (Diaz 2005).
The venomous spines of puss caterpillars are hollow and each is equipped with a venom gland at its base (Foot 1922). All larval instars, as well as exuviae, may sting but the toxicity of the stings increases with increasing size of the larvae (Davidson 1967).
Eagleman (2008) has reviewed common treatments for puss caterpillar stings. Remedies that may be helpful in some cases include removing broken spine tips from the skin with tape, applying ice packs, use of oral antihistamine, application of hydrocortisone cream to the site of the sting, systemic corticosteroids, and intravenous calcium gluconate.
Eggs of the tachinids are laid externally on the puss caterpillars. Most caterpillars are parasitized late enough that the flies mature in the cocoons. The adult flies then emerge by forcing open the operculum of the cocoon (Khalaf 1981).
In most years, puss caterpillars are kept under control by natural enemies. If control measures are required, chemical insecticide or Bacillus thuringiensis applications recommended for control of other caterpillars (Osborne et al. 2012) should be effective.
The southern flannel moth was originally described by J. E. Smith (1797) and named Phalaena opercularis (common name, waved yellow egger moth). For a historical account of the southern flannel moth's taxonomy see Heppner (2003). In addition to the name "puss caterpillar," its caterpillar has been called "Italian asp," "possum bug," "perrito" (Spanish for puppy or little dog) (Bishopp 1923), and "woolly slug" (El-Mallakh et al. 1986).
El-Mallakh RS, Baumgartner MS, Fares N. 1986. "Sting" of the puss caterpillar, Megalopyge opercularis (Lepidoptera: Megalopygidae): first report of cases from Florida and review of literature. The Journal of the Florida Medical Association 73(7): 521-525.
The puss caterpillar is native to Virginia and has been found in low numbers in the region for years and years. They can be found in various landscapes, as they feed on a range of different trees and shrubs. You may encounter one while on a hike or while in your own backyard.
Puss caterpillars, Megalopyge opercularis, are also called asp caterpillars because of their potent stings. They are called puss caterpillars because their thick, fluffy setae resemble the fur of a pussycat. Adults are called flannel moths because of their fluffy, wavy, flannel-like scales. The moths evidently lay their eggs in batches because young larvae sometimes feed in groups on the surface of the leaf. Older larvae devour entire leaves. The caterpillars finally spin a dense cocoon in which it spends the winter. Two generations occur each year with two peaks of abundance of caterpillars in July and October. The winter is spent in the cocoon spun on the host plant. The cocoon usually has a noticeable bump on the back and on the front there is usually a distinct, round hatch cover (the operculum) through which the moth emerges in the spring (the scientific name opercularis was named for the distinctive operculum.).
"cat," by 1690s, a diminutive of puss (n.1), also used of a rabbit (1715). As a term of endearment for a girl or woman, from 1580s (also used of effeminate men), and applied childishly to anything soft and furry. To play pussy was World War II RAF slang for "take advantage of cloud cover, jumping from cloud to cloud to shadow a potential victim or avoid recognition."
Young children from Florida to North Carolina are reporting excruciating pain after coming into contact with the most venomous caterpillar in the U.S., the furry puss caterpillar (Megalopyge opercularis), according to news reports. Some have petted the insect; others have been injured when the caterpillars fell onto them from trees.
The puss caterpillar got its name because it resembles a cuddly house cat, said University of Florida entomologist Don Hall. While these insects may look soft, their outer comb-over (which some have compared to a toupee or the coif of Donald Trump) hides small, extremely toxic spines that stick in your skin. (Read more about venom in National Geographic magazine.)
Although there are no defined medical procedures if you do get stung by a puss caterpillar, Hall recommends covering the area with cellophane tape and then ripping it off to remove any spines that remain in the wound, which will help decrease the pain.
When Puss came into the Orphanage he took the Beans Puss was about to eat but after Little Boy Blue's friends acted rough against him since he was sitting on Boy Blue's chair Humpty stood up for him but Boy Blue ended up having the 2 bullies spin him after puss witnessed this he used a spoon and hit boy blue and his friends saving Humpty after that day they became friends, soon Puss found out Humpty's dream to find the Magic beans after learning about it him and Humpty worked together to steal as many beans to find the magic beans. Soon after they turned to teenagers the dream was put on hold and they soon began their life of stealing they usually ended up getting caught which Imelda tries to convince that they are better than this, After Puss saved the Comadante's mother from a bull Puss was rewarded with boots as a symbol of honor but little did Puss know that Humpty was spending his times alone behind bars Puss convinces Humpty that He should stop stealing like Puss but he was too stubborn to listen he soon tricked him into robbing the bank and ended up having to leave Humpty behind. After the dance fight Humpty appears before Puss asking to be Partners like they used too but Puss still held the grudge he had after he got betrayed by him after Puss joins for San Ricardo and his Mother and a Way to clear his name Puss him and Kitty softpaws try to steal the Magic beans from Jack and Jill after escaping he planted the seeds and rode on the vine up to the castle. After they retrieve the Golden Goose, they camped and soon Him and Puss started fighting on who should dance with kitty after they went to sleep. Puss woke up alone thinking that Jack and Jill kidnapped them but when he returned to san ricardo to find out that Humpty hired Jack and Jill and gets Puss arrested but after Puss escapes prison he asked Humpty to change his ways to return the Goose before the Great terror arrives, but it was already too late as the mama goose arrives. Humpty having a change of heart made a plan for Puss to lead the mama Goose to her baby by the san ricardo bridge but Jack and Jill said they wanted the Goose with the Eggs but was stomped by the Mama Goose, As the bridge collapses Puss and Humpty and the Golden Goose are hanging on the bridge Puss is not leaving Humpty again but as he was about to save Humpty the bridge is breaking piece by piece realizing that Puss would not let go he let go himself saving the Golden goose. After the goose reunites with it's mother Puss finds a Golden egg with pieces of eggshell around it proving that Humpty died. Soon, the mama goose takes the egg with her and flies off. 041b061a72