Surf City woman stung by poisonous puss caterpillar: ‘It was terrifying’

PENDER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — A Surf City woman is recovering after stepping on one of the most poisonous caterpillars in the United States.

On Monday, Tabitha McGowan was walking outside barefoot to check her mail when she was stung by something. While going back inside, she suddenly felt an intense pain on the bottom of her foot. She first thought she was stung by a ground hornet or a bee.

A couple of minutes passed and the pain quickly radiated throughout her leg. 

“It took me only a few minutes to realize I had come in contact with something much worse than a bee!” she told WWAY. “I immediately put my 3-month-old baby in his swing and called my husband to leave work because the pain was becoming so unbearable that I could no longer walk.”

McGowan said by the time her husband Billy got home the pain had radiated all the way up into her back.

“It was terrifying,” she said.

Billy searched outside for a clue of what could have stung his wife. That’s when he found a little furry creature laying in the grass.

After doing some research, they discovered it was a Southern Flannel Moth, also known as a puss caterpillar.

Experts say when a puss moth caterpillar rubs or is pressed against someone’s skin, its venomous hairs are embedded, usually causing severe burning and a rash, which is exactly what McGowan was experiencing.

“We contacted a nurse, and they suggested taking an antihistamine, and ibuprofen for pain,” she said.

She said the intense pain lasted for 12 hours and has started to gradually reduce since then.

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