There are many extraordinary things about this Puss caterpillar, but perhaps the most extraordinary is that it has almost 4 million views on YouTube.
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The moth Megalopyge opercularis has numerous common names, including southern flannel moth, pussy moth, puss caterpillar, tree asp, and, asp caterpillar. It is visually striking in both larval and adult forms. The inch-long larva is generously coated in long, luxuriant hair-like setae, making it resemble a tiny Persian cat, the characteristic that presumably gave it the name "puss." It is variable in color, from downy grayish-white to golden-brown to dark charcoal gray. It often has a streak of bright orange running longitudinally. The 'fur' on early-stage larvae is sometimes extremely curly, giving the larva a cottony, puffed-up look. The body tapers to a tail that extends well beyond the body, unlike its relative M. crispata (Wagner 2005). The middle instar has a more dishevelled, 'bad-hair-day' appearance, without a distinctive tail.
The adult moth is also very bizarre in appearance, covered in long fur in colors ranging from dull orange to lemon yellow, with hairy legs and fuzzy black feet. Ironically, the resemblance of the larvae to soft, colorful cotton balls encourages people to pick them up and pet them.
The 'fur' of the larva contains venomous spines that cause extremely painful reactions in human skin upon contact. The reactions are sometimes localized to the affected area but are often very severe, radiating up a limb and causing burning, swelling, nausea, headache, abdominal distress, rashes, blisters, and sometimes chest pain, numbness, or difficulty breathing (Eagleman 2008). Additionally, it is not unusual to find sweating from the welts or hives at the site of the sting.
M. opercularis can be found on oaks, elms, citrus and other trees, and many garden plants such as roses and ivy. It is distributed throughout the southern United States, Mexico, and parts of Central America. The larva does not spin a real cocoon, rather, it separates from its furry skin and uses it as a protective covering while it pupates.