The other day my second graders were relocating a green caterpillar to their hands. I had to intervene and put the caterpillar up high in the tree. While we were all watching the little green caterpillar crawl up the tree, a student yelled, “What is that?” I quickly ducked under the branch and saw what you see above. An object that was hairy like a cat, had a spine, and looked like something out of a Star Trek movie.
I called over my fellow teacher, who promptly looked it up on her iPad and found out that it is the most poisonous caterpillar in the U.S. I found it crazy, that my students managed to find such a thing just a few feet from our extremely noisy playground.
The best known flannel moth and stinging caterpillar in Texas is the puss moth caterpillar,Megalopyge opercularis, commonly called an “asp“. This is one of the most toxic caterpillars in North America. This caterpillar may infest shade trees and shrubbery around homes, schools, and in parks. They are of little importance as enemies of shade trees, but they can cause a severe sting. When a puss moth caterpillar rubs or is pressed against skin, venomous hairs stick into the skin, causing a severe burning sensation and rash. – from this website
Isn’t amazing as we are going about our normal every day lives that we have a brush with something so amazing that we have to look it up, just to figure out what it is. I talked with my students about when I was growing up I would have had to find an expert in caterpillars or a copy of a book about caterpillars just to figure it out. In the meantime, I would probably would have grabbed it and put it in a jar to keep it, because I could not pull out my phone and document it. It is amazing and exciting to see what tools we have now and what good can be done with them.
(for the insect or child conscious— the puss moth caterpillar was relocated to the woods far away from the children)