One of the things about adjusting to life in West Central Missouri is the bugs. Moths flying around the lamp outside your front door. Spiders as big as your fist crawling around everywhere. And all kinds of other creepy, crawly, creatures I've never experienced anywhere else.

So of course it wasn't surprising to me when I saw the article from KY3 on this fuzzy caterpillar you shouldn't touch.

According to the television station, some nature groups around the state have spotted this venomous caterpillar and the Missouri Department of Conservation told the television station that it's the southern flannel moth caterpillar. They say they're not really that rare in the Ozarks area, although they aren't commonly seen.

Southern Living provides some other names for the southern flannel moth caterpillar: furry puss caterpillar, asp, woolly slug, and opossum bug. They also say, "It is one of the most dangerous bugs in the United States." They explain that this caterpillar doesn't have a stinger like a bee, but has hair that covers a poisonous spine that can stick things that come into contact with it. The poisonous spine, by the way, disappears when the caterpillar turns into a moth.

You don't want to get stuck by the poisonous spine. The poison causes extreme pain and swelling. The spines can stick in your (or your pets) skin too. The man KY3 spoke to said the sting went from irritating to excruciating in seconds. And Southern Living relayed the story of a five-year-old Dallas girl who wound up hospitalized after getting stung by one.

The caterpillar can be found, "On the East Coast in states stretching from New Jersey to Florida. They can also be found as far west as Texas and Arkansas." So how likely are we to see it here in West Central Missouri? It sounds like you might experience this fuzzy caterpillar near the Ozarks, with less of a chance of seeing one around here. So I guess the reality is, we can keep worrying more about that spider we took a picture of and posted on Facebook that we can't identify.

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Gallery Credit: Katherine Gallagher

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