Some call it the caterpillar-dog, others, the caterpillar-bear. The fact is that, despite the delicate names and the soft to the touch appearance, this animal poses a great risk to humans.
According to the environmental educator, Matheus Mesquista, it is easy to identify the species – Podalia orsilochus, of the family Megalopygidae; thanks to the characteristic appearance. “The popular name was chosen because of the bristles that surround the body, which looks a lot like dog hair. Usually the color is pulled towards brown”, he says.
But don’t be fooled by the ‘cuteness’… Just touching this insect is enough to injure yourself. “The toxin is in the animal’s bristles. The hairs cause a burning sensation on the skin”, tell the expert.
They are venomous animals. The bristles, when they come in contact with the skin, release a toxin that causes a lot of pain and swelling – something like a burn.
— Matheus Mesquista, environmental educator
“Puppy caterpillars are the larval stage of moth species of the genus Podalia. They can be found in several regions of the country, especially in the South, more commonly in areas of the Atlantic Forest”, highlights the specialist. “In adulthood these animals play a great pollinating role. They are nocturnal moths that perform important work to maintain the balance of ecosystems. At this stage, the species does not represent a risk, as it loses its body bristles”, he adds.
The word taturana is of Tupi-Guarani origin and means “that which burns like fire. — Photo: Fabrício Alex de Souza/Personal Archives
Matheus Mesquita explains that the reputation of ‘burning’ comes from the sensation caused by the animal’s bristles when in contact with the skin. “It is not for nothing that the species is also known as fireworm. These hairs contain a toxin that is used as a defense against predators. other regions of the body”.
“Nausea, fever and headache can also be symptoms of contact with the caterpillars. In more serious cases, complications such as shortness of breath and hemorrhages are observed. Therefore, it is important to keep your distance from the animal”complete.
Woman got swollen fingers after catching a caterpillar – Photo: Disclosure
Because it is not quite a burn, it is necessary to pay attention to the treatment method and not follow the standards indicated in cases of usual burns.
“The person should wash the contact area with running water, remain calm, avoid unnecessary effort and seek medical attention. No whether to make restraints or tourniquets on the affected limb”, he adds.
Another recommendation is to take a photo or take the caterpillar to the health center so that the species can be identified and, thus, define the need to use the serum to neutralize the effect of the poison.
Toxin can cause serious accidents in fragile people, such as the elderly and allergic people — Photo: Maria Célia/Arquivo Pessoas
- Pay attention when picking fruit, touching trees and plants;
- When pruning trees, protect your hands with thick gloves and wear long-sleeved shirts to avoid direct contact with the caterpillars;
- Keep children away from trees or plants that house caterpillars: the little ones, attracted by the ‘cuteness’ of the animal, can be injured
Caterpillar burned an elderly woman – Photo: Reproduction
With the high temperatures of summer, it is necessary to redouble attention, especially those who like to enjoy the shadows of the trees, since the caterpillars usually stay on the trunk. “They develop especially in the hottest times of the year, thus increasing the occurrence of accidents”, adds Mesquita.