Experts: Hickory Tussock Caterpillar Is Not Poisonous

People Could Have Allergies To Caterpillars

DETROIT - Regardless of the rumor circulating on the Internet, experts say the white hickory tussock moth caterpillar is not poisonous but just a bit defensive.

The black, white and furry caterpillar has been labeled poisonous, but entomologists said it's far from it.

"It's not going to send poison through the body," said Andy Murdock, an entomologist with Rose Pest Solutions. "It's going to send a reaction like a mosquito bite."

Murdock said the white prickly hairs on the caterpillars are a defense mechanism. If someone picks up one of the insects they most likely will receive a rash or skin irritation.

"When the hairs get in your skin ... they can cause that reaction," he said. "Sometimes you won't even feel that they are in there."

Entomologists warn that like bee stings, these caterpillars could have dangerous side affects for people with certain allergies.

Copyright 2003 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.