Looks can be deceiving. This cute, white, fuzzy caterpillar seems harmless but it's actually poisonous and is causing havoc in New York. Just ask a 7 year-old Sauquoit boy who is recovering after coming into contact with one.

"Brody broke out after one touched his face while camping in Forestport," says his mom Angela Denslow. "It was so scary how fast it swelled. Thank God our camp neighbor was a nurse and had Benadryl. But the bumps last over a month!"

Photo Credit: Angela Denslow/TSM
Photo Credit: Angela Denslow/TSM

Brody isn't alone. 10 year-old Nehemiah of Binghamton also had a bad reaction. "Nehemiah mentioned his neck was irritated and burning," writes his mom Kristi Lyons on Facebook. "I saw it was red and when I got up to look at it I saw the white caterpillar."

These are called a Hickory Tussock Moth Caterpillar and despite being native to Canada, have been spotted in New York and Pennsylvania in the past few years. "If you see one, as cute as they may be, DO not touch it," warns Lyons. "They release a poisonous venom on the skin which causes an almost immediate irritation."

Nehemiah is slowly recovering after being put on high doses of Benadryl and given a steroid cream. After Lyons posted a warning to avoid the caterpillar on Facebook she realized she wasn't alone. "I’ve heard from several people who have had similar encounters locally," says Lyons. "These white caterpillars are the real deal."

Since posting the story on our Facebook page, several people in central New York have come across the caterpillars too. Christine Schultz says she almost picked one up because "I thought it was cute. Something told me not to touch. Glad I didn't." Victoria Biela says she moved two from her yard in Holland Patent yesterday and Ashley Lesniak found one in Inlet this past weekend at her family's camp.

Paul Burrows, a doctor from Binghamton says these caterpillars love corn stalks, apple, ash, Oak and Willow trees. "If families picking apples and pumpkin farming, they are bound to be in their paths. Calamine lotion and witch hazel are good choices to treat the rash. It could be detrimental if it’s not washed well first with some good old soap and water. By no means should you touch it if you’re helping someone clean it because you can become irritated too."


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