SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - Florida officials are warning about a potentially harmful caterpillar that may be lurking where your kids play during recess.
It’s known as the white marked tussock moth caterpillar. It started showing up in a lot of places in the spring, including playgrounds. Health officials say you could get a rash if you touch the bug, its hairs, or cocoon.
"Everything that sticks out from the caterpillars, it’s usually colorful and very thin and seems to cause problems," said David Dal Pos, a PhD student at the University of Central Florida.
Seminole County Public Schools sent a warning out for parents to be aware if their children are outdoors, at local parks, or on a playground.
"Parents who notice these caterpillars on playground equipment should consider not allowing their children to play on the equipment. If the playground equipment is in in a public space, parents can notify the organization or individual responsible for the playground equipment for the safe removal of the caterpillars. If the caterpillars are found at home in the yard, encourage children not to play with them and consider contacting a pest control company if there is an infestation."
Residents have been posting videos and photos of the creepy little critters all around Central Florida. Mike Nickerson Sr. found them crawling around on the gate to a horse corral.
Anne Beckham Gowens of Starke posted that they were falling out of trees during her picnic and one got her on the neck.
"No rash but it stung a bit. My fault -- I mistook it for a spider crawling on me and tried to squish it."
Mike Nickerson Sr.
State health officials say the yellowish white hairs are barbed and can be difficult to remove from the skin.
What to do if you get stung by a tussock moth caterpillar
Health experts advise the following:
- Put tape over the area of skin and pull it up to remove any hairs or prickly spines in the skin.
- Wash area with soap and water
- Apply an ice pack to ease stinging and baking soda and water to reduce itching.
Symptoms can reportedly appear within minutes and last for one of more days.