Hands off: Don't pet or lick that cute fuzzy caterpillar

By Tom Spears, Ottawa Sun, October 4, 2018

Hickory tussock moth caterpillars are on the move, looking for a winter home. They are fuzzy, bright and cute. Don’t pet them.

Also, don’t lick them.

Eastern Ontario is home to this bug, and it’s sort of toxic, or at least irritating if you handle it. Doctors aren’t sure exactly how it causes the reaction, but insect scientist Amanda Roe says its cute hairs that look like fur are in fact barbed, a little like porcupine quills.

Once lodged in the skin they can cause a rash similar to poison ivy or stinging nettles, whether this is from something chemical or just the fact that tiny barbs in the skin are irritating. Unfortunately, they attract children who want to pet the furry caterpillars.


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