Poisonous Caterpillar Outbreak in Idaho
When you go camping or hiking in the Gem State, what bugs are you most scared of?Bees? Wasps? Horse Flies? Spiders? All of those answers are totally understandable. Bee stings hurt. Some of the spiders around here are absolutely huge and therefor terrifying. Horse flies? Well, I'm just allergic to those and if I get bit by one, I'm looking at a huge, inflamed itchy spot as big as an orange.
But you know what bug doesn't seem all that scary? A caterpillar. In fact your kids might love caterpillars and don't mind picking them up. (Heck, I remember doing that on the playground all the time.) Unfortunately, if they get too up close and personal with a caterpillar that will one day blossom into a Douglas-Fir Tussock Moth, they could end up with a pretty serious allergic reaction.
According to Channel 6, parts of the Payette Forest and Boise National Forest (especially near Sage Hen Reservoir) are experiencing an outbreak of the fuzzy little guys just like they did in 2018. When their long bristly hair touches human skin, that's considered a caterpillar "sting" that could develop into rashes, itching, burning, swelling or blistering.
The Douglas-Fir Tussock Moths have a population outbreak every three to four years and can lead to the death of Douglas-Fir trees because they feed on their needles. Unfortunately, their second favorite plant to attack is the Huckleberry Bush. Stick your hand in to grab some berries without realizing they're there...and well, that brings the fun to an end pretty quickly. Channel 6 suggests wearing gloves and long sleeves while Huckleberry picking until the outbreak passes.
What happens if you find one of these little guys crawling on you? According to the National Capital Poison Center you need to remove them without using your hands. Use a piece of tape to remove the hairs from your skin and repeat until all of the hairs have been removed from the skin. Wash the affected area with soap and water. If a rash or itching occurs, coat it with a paste of soda and water. If that doesn't work, you can try a hydrocortisone cream or antihistamine cream. Should the skin blister, contact a doctor as soon as possible.