Meet the larva of the Megalopyge, a family of moths that sound highly unpleasant.The Wikipedia page explaining this guy is in French, but there are a few English-language pages talking about some of his siblingsand cousins. Note the seemingly luxuriant fur coat.
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.
Well, that sounds positively dandy! What could be wrong with that?
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. Ironically, the resemblance of the larvae to soft, colorful cotton balls encourages people to pick them up and pet them.
Okay, so there’s that. We have these guys in Texas, except the caterpillars are usually black. Don’t touch them, seriously.
If you’re feeling bold, here’s a video about their life cycle: