Look (and photograph), but don’t touch! The caterpillars in this group are famous for their stinging spines and hairs. Their purpose is to dissuade would-be predators. The caterpillars don’t “go after” people. But if you touch them or accidentally brush against them, you could get “zapped.” Many people are stung while gardening, so this is just one more good reason to use gloves, wear long sleeves, a floppy hat, and so on. Symptoms can include pain, rash, burning, itching, swelling, and blistering.
Usually the symptoms go away or decrease within about a day, but if they are severe or persist, seek medical help. Some experts suggest gently applying tape sticky-side-down to the affected area, then lifting it off to draw out the tiny hairs from your skin. A paste of baking soda and water can help relieve symptoms, as can hydrocortisone cream.
Although not all the caterpillars in this group have stinging spines or hairs, some people might be extra sensitive and have an allergic reaction to contact. This is generally true of larvae in all moth families, so we advise caution with any “hairy” or spiny caterpillars.
Apparently, the “fur” of the winged, adult moths is non-irritating for most people.