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Megalopygidae, or the flannel moths, is a family of about 220 medium sized, stocky, dull brown or black, fuzzy moth species (Lepidoptera) that occur primarily in the new world tropics, although a few species are found in North America (11) and in Africa.  The larvae, called puss caterpillars, differ from most caterpillars in having seven pairs of prolegs rather than the standard five (or fewer) pairs, and they are covered with long silky hairs hiding venomous spines which can cause a painful sting and inflammation lasting for several days.  Perhaps the most notorious for stinging is the caterpillar of Megalopyge opercularis.

Caterpillars often feed gregariously as young larvae, and as they mature they are found individually.  In some years populations of megalopygid moths in the southern United States undergo a spike; in abundance these caterpillars can cause extensive tree defoliation.

(Hoskins, 2014; Hyche 1998; Wikipedia, 2013)


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