Monday, October 12, 2020

Furry Puss Caterpillar - Cute But Dangerous


Puss caterpillar - Photograph by Donald W. Hall, University of Florida.
Puss Caterpillar - Photograph by Donald W. Hall, University of Florida.

It's oh-so-cute, but oh-so-dangerous - the Southern Flannel moth (Megalopyge opercularis), especially in its caterpillar form. The caterpillar looks kind of like a little pussycat, but it is not to be touched. The soft hair hides venomous spines. 

The severity of the sting depends a lot on the sensitivity of the individual and the thickness of the skin where it's stung. One first feels an intense burning sensation and a red grid-like pattern on the skin where the person is stung. But that may only be the beginning of it. Much more serious symptoms such as headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, rapid heart rate, low blood pressure, seizures and even abdominal pain, muscle spasms and convulsions can occur.

Who is most likely to encounter the Puss caterpillar? Children can certainly be stung. Its soft fur looks like it'd be fun to touch. Or, one might accidentally brush against it while walking in meadows or woods.

The Furry Puss caterpillar is found from New Jersey to Florida and westward to Arkansas and Texas. One year, its population in Texas grew to the point that school children were threatened and schools were closed.

Once the Furry Puss reaches the adult stage, the venomous spines disappear. At this point it's known as the Southern Flannel moth. It's still cute, but not to be welcomed.

By Patrick Coin (Patrick Coin) - Photograph taken by Patrick Coin, CC BY-SA 2.5,

By Patrick Coin (Patrick Coin) - Photograph taken by Patrick Coin, CC BY-SA 2.5

If you live in this caterpillar's native range, be sure to warn your children of it, and take care yourself.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Nootkatone Is Now Registered By The EPA


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announces, "A new active ingredient, discovered and developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has been registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use in insecticides and insect repellents.

"Studies show that when products are formulated from the new ingredient, nootkatone, they may repel and kill ticks, mosquitoes, and a wide variety of other biting pests. Nootkatone is responsible for the characteristic smell and taste of grapefruit and is widely used in the fragrance industry to make perfumes and colognes. It is found in minute quantities in Alaska yellow cedar trees and grapefruit skin.

"Nootkatone can now be used to develop new insect repellents and insecticides for protecting people and pets. CDC’s licensed partner, Evolva, is in advanced discussions with leading pest control companies for possible commercial partnerships. Companies interested in developing brand name consumer products will be required to submit a registration package to EPA for review, and products could be commercially available as early as 2022."

When applied, it is able to repel ticks, mosquitoes, and other insects for hours. It is nontoxic to humans. Nootkatone is already used as an approved food additive, and is commonly used in products for human consumption.

Read more.