New Yorkers are warned not to touch a cute, fuzzy but venomous caterpillar which has been spotted all over the state.

Hickory tussock moth caterpillars are common in the Northeast in the fall, sometimes in large numbers, officials say. And they are back again this year.

The furry white and black hairs are actually venomous. When they get stuck in the skin, a person may develop a rash, similar to poison ivy. In extreme cases, the person will have difficulty breathing and may vomit.

A 7 year-old Sauquoit boy broke out after coming into contact with one last year. "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."

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."

That they are! One fell on my neck. Take a look at what happened....

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."

The venomous hairs can also impact your dog or cat if the caterpillar’s hair comes in contact with the animal’s nose.

Be on the lookout for these white caterpillars that look cute but should be avoided.

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