Months after the Asian giant hornet, a fierce predatory insect popularly known as the “killer hornet,” was first seen in Washington state, Virginia, Virginia health officials are now warning residents to be vigilant. to another dangerous creature: the highly poisonous furry caterpillar.
- This week, the Virginia Department of Forests raised the alarm after receiving several reports of the furry-looking virus in the eastern state. Several Virginia residents have reported being bitten by the dangerous creature in recent days, which is unusual since this type of caterpillar is commonly found in southern states like Texas and Missouri.
- Meanwhile, Washington State is facing its own insect infestation. Since the state’s first killer hornet was discovered late last year, these insects have destroyed entire hives and decapitated tens of thousands of bees, threatening crops that depend on pollination. These ferocious creatures are also known to kill about 50 people in Japan each year, mainly as a result of allergic reactions.
- Officials at the Washington State Department of Agriculture are now making desperate efforts to track their nests and kill them before they enter their destructive “death phase.”
But what are these insects and what caused their sudden resurgence in America?
- Named after the much less ferocious house cat, the hairy caterpillar is essentially a southern flannel butterfly in its larval stage. According to experts, after metamorphosis, the insect no longer poses a threat.
- Like a wig or toupee, the caterpillar is considered one of the most poisonous of its kind in the United States.
- Accidentally touching or brushing the fur of these insects could cause a painful reaction and trigger symptoms such as fever, muscle cramps or swollen glands.
- The spiky hairs that cover them hide tiny toxic spines that can lodge on a person’s skin and cause an immediate and intense burning sensation. The severity of the bite depends on its location and the number of spines embedded in the skin. The caterpillar can also sometimes leave its victim with an itchy rash that appears in a red grid pattern.
- A Virginia resident who was bitten by the caterpillar last month told Daily Progress that he felt as if he had been stabbed with a flaming knife. Slug-like insects have been known to fall from trees and lodge on clothing, causing multiple painful bites.
- The caterpillars, which subsist only on oak and elm leaves, are commonly found in parks and structures near southern states like Texas and Missouri. In a recent Facebook post, the Virginia Department of Forestry urged locals to maintain “social distancing” from the caterpillar after several of them were first spotted in eastern Virginia state.
What is the “killer hornet” and what threat does it pose to agriculture?
- In November of last year, two unusual wasps were sighted near Blaine, Washington. After studying the insects closely, the scientists identified them as giant Asian hornets, the largest wasps in the world, known to grow to nearly two inches long.
- While no one has been able to find out how the hornets first landed on US soil, some believe they may have been accidentally brought in by container ships that docked at one of Washington’s Ports.
- Native to East Asia and Japan, these predators have been known to mercilessly destroy bees and decimated their hives. However, they also pose a threat to humans.
- Its powerful stingers unleash a poison that has killed hundreds of people around the world. According to National Geographic, 42 people in just one Chinese province died in 2013 as a result of an increase in the killer wasp population.
- Researchers and foresters fear the impact of these insects on the country’s agriculture that relies on pollination from honey bees. Pollination is a very important part of the agricultural process and a large number of crops depend on bees, which serve as primary pollinators.
- European honey bees, commonly found in North America, are no match for the Asian giant hornet. A small group of hornets can destroy an entire colony of bees in less than 90 minutes with their shark fin jaws, experts say.
- The Washington State Department of Agriculture worked overtime trying to locate the insects and destroy their nests before they entered their “killing phase”, where they killed the bees. by beheading them.
- After the first hornet was found in Washington, a website was set up at the State Department of Agriculture to report additional sightings. So far, officials have received several hundred reports, Reuters reported.
- At least six wasps have been sighted or captured near the town of Blaine over the past two weeks. Washington state officials managed to capture a live hornet for the first time until September 30. However, when they tried to attach a tracker to the insect, so that it could lead them to their nest, they ended up erasing its wings.
What caused an increase in the population of the two insects in the United States?
- Climate change has a major role to play in the sudden appearance and subsequent increase in populations of several different insects over the past decade, experts say.
- “As our climate changes, we are seeing some insects shifting their populations,” Theresa Dellinger, a diagnostician in the insect identification lab at Virginia Tech, told CNN. But it is too early to tell. Caterpillars, butterflies, and moths have cyclical periods, so it’s about the right time and the right conditions. “
- Scientists believe that the hairy cat caterpillar population will be controlled by its natural predators. But they will be forced to intervene if the numbers rise suddenly and dramatically.
- Meanwhile, in the case of “killer wasps,” many believe they were prevalent in the western parts of Washington due to the vast forested landscapes and mild, humid climate the state offers.