New Orleans swarming with tiny invaders

New Orleans swarming with tiny invaders

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A tiny invasion is underway in the Crescent City as thousands of caterpillars hatch from oak trees around the city.

The Live Oak Tussock Moth Caterpillar is swarming several areas as spring temperatures reach the perfect point for the insect's eggs.

"The Live Oak Tussock Moth is very abundant for just a narrow window of time in the early spring, right now, and they're not widespread across the South even though live oaks are, and they're really a beautiful caterpillar," said Zack Lemann, with the Audubon Butterfly and Insectarium.

The caterpillar may look monstrous, but it's practically harmless. The tiny hairs on its side can, in rare instances, cause mild irritation, but not much to worry about.

Another caterpillar that comes out in droves this time of year is the Buckmoth, which looks like a spiny black bug and packs a wallop of a sting.

"You certainly don't want to go caterpillar juggling with a Buckmoth, they are a caterpillar covered in spines which are stinging hairs basically. They're hollow, and in certain caterpillars they are filled with or surrounded by venom. Buckmoths fall into that category, and if you push against them hard enough, some of those spines will come off and you'll get stung," Lemann said.

But the season for the creatures doesn't last too long. In fact, Buckmoths will burrow underground until they hatch as a moth in late fall or early winter.

Lemann said the tiny insects are fun to watch and typically won't interfere with human activity as long as you're aware they could be swinging from the trees.

"One of the nice things about having a museum in town that we can tell folks about insects is that we can relieve a lot of anxiety, in addition to just exciting people about the natural world. We don't want folks to be worried about insects that are really of no concern, and I wouldn't be worried if I had a bunch of Live Oak Tussock Moths around my home," Lemann said.

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