Tussock moth caterpillars: Why are there so many caterpillars right now?

They're back! Florida officials are warning about the return of the white-marked tussock moth caterpillar.

The potentially harmful caterpillar has been dropping from trees and showing up in yards and playgrounds. State health officials say the yellowish-white hairs are barbed and challenging to remove from the skin.

According to the University of Florida entomologists, they usually mature and drop from their host trees around this time of year. They seek places to spin their cocoons but try not to touch them.

caterpillar stinging rash florida

Rusty tussock moth or Vapourer (Orgyia gonostigma) caterpillar, Lymantriidae. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)


"Everything that sticks out from caterpillars is usually colorful and very thin and seems to cause some problems. I would stay away from it," explained expert Davide Dal Pos.

What to do if you get stung by a tussock moth caterpillar

Health experts advise the following:

  • Put tape over the area of the skin and pull it up to remove any hairs or prickly spines in the skin.
  • Wash the area with soap and water
  • Apply an ice pack to ease stinging, baking soda, and water to reduce itching.

Symptoms can reportedly appear within minutes and last for one or more days.