There are 100 species of caterpillars in Florida and many are poisonous. You can easily identify each caterpillar species by their coloring and body shape as well as what they feed on. There are several stinging or poisonous caterpillars in Florida particularly because of what they feed on. Stinging caterpillars feed on a variety of ornamental plants, trees and shrubs commonly found in Florida such as palms and hibiscus.
Buck Moth Caterpillar
The buck moth grows as long as 2 1/4 inches when fully mature. It varies in color, ranging from yellowish-brown to purplish-black. The head is reddish and the body has many small white spots. The buck moth feeds on oak, willow and other deciduous plants. It is poisonous, causing an itching and burning sensation or, sometimes, a more severe allergic reaction.
The hag caterpillar is light to dark brown with up to nine pairs, which may vary in length and have stinging hairs. This caterpillar has an unusual blob-like shape and is typically found in ornamental shrubs and forest trees. This caterpillar is poisonous: Reactions to a sting vary from mild to severe.
The puss caterpillar has a stout, fat-looking, hairy body. When mature, the body can be up to 1 inch long. Gray or brown hairs completely cover the puss caterpillar's body. Underneath these hairs are stiff spines attached to poisonous glands. The puss typically hangs out in oak trees and citrus trees in Florida.
Spiny Oak-Slug Caterpillar
The spiny oak-slug caterpillar is pale green, maturing to a length of about 3/4 of an inch. It feeds on oak trees, willow trees and other deciduous plants. The spiny oak-slug caterpillar is poisonous; allergic reactions vary from mild to severe.
Flannel Moth Caterpillar
The flannel moth caterpillar is fluffy and white and resembles cotton. It grows to be about 1 inch long and is covered in stinging hairs that are mixed in with soft ones. Mature flannel moth caterpillars turn dark in color and feed on oaks and various other shrubs and trees. It is poisonous.
The saddelback caterpillar gets its name from the unusual saddle-shaped flank on it that is green and black. This is in contrast to the rest of the caterpillar, which is brown. This caterpillar can sting you from its fleshy horns from the stinging hairs located on the lower sides, front and back of its body.