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They're back! Venomous caterpillar stings Spring Hill man

Tampa Bay dad calls caterpillar sting 'worse than scorpion bite'

SPRING HILL, Fla. (WFLA) - It's worse than a scorpion bite.

Worse than the meanest wasp.

Even more painful than fire coral.

That's how a Spring Hill man describes the stinging sensation from a creepy, crawly creature making it's way across Tampa Bay area counties.

Turns out, this dad's description is spot-on, according to epidemiologists.

They call this hairy insect one of the most venomous caterpillars in the world, most active in the early summer and fall.

Michael Dusk says when he was stung last week, he felt it.


The puss caterpillar, he tells WFLA, packs one powerful punch.

"That's when I realized, brace yourself, Mike. This is gonna be a fun experience, and I mean that in a sarcastic way," he chuckled. 

The 37-year-old father first came into contact with the caterpillar while doing yard work near his home in Spring Hill last week. 

When the little guy got him, the dad experienced one big burning sensation through his body.

Within 15 minutes, his skin was pulsating.

He felt it from his calf, where he was stung, all the way to his waist. 

"For about a good hour, I was unable to walk or do anything much," he said.

His first thought?

Get the barbs out.

"I used medical tape," the dad explained. "I pressed it down several times. I read that you can put it on the sting up to ten times to pull the barbs out. Then, I washed it with soap and water and put baking soda on it."

The mixture of baking soda and water, he said, began to soothe the sting.

"It seemed to calm it down to what half the pain level was at," Michael claimed.

The puss caterpillar is certainly no stranger to Tampa Bay.

In mid-June, it crept up on a Land O'Lakes teenager as he and his family were doing volunteer work. They rushed to the emergency room with the bug in a baggie.

"I've seen caterpillars, but nothing like this one," said the teen's mom, Andrea Pergola. "They're around, and they're dangerous."

As for Michael, the Spring Hill father says he'll never forget his caterpillar close encounter.  

So, what advice does the outdoorsy dad have for other parents and kids?

Here's the warning he gave his own children. 

"I showed them pictures of the caterpillar and explained to them how much it hurts. Being the intelligent kids that they are, I told them to notify me or their mom if they've seen one," he said.

Experts add one final piece of advice: Resist the temptation to touch one of these seemingly enticing-looking furry insects.  

If you must move one, use gloves.  

You'll be glad you did.

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