Venomous puss caterpillar sightings in Virginia trigger warning from forestry department

(Photo courtesy of Virginia Department of Forestry)

Officials with the Virginia Department of Forestry are warning about the venomous puss caterpillar after reports of sightings in the Commonwealth. 

Although they appear soft, the "hairs" of the caterpillar are actually venomous spines that cause a painful reaction if touched.

VDOF's forest health team said these caterpillars typically cling to trees where they eat oak and elm leaves, but can also be found in parks or nearby structures. 

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"If you find the caterpillar, leave it alone and let its natural enemies control their populations," officials said in a post on Facebook. "There are a number of other insects that will prey on them at different stages of their life cycle."