VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) - A dangerous insect in Virginia Beach is sending people to the emergency room.
Any bug guy will tell you this has been the summer of the caterpillar. You can't go anywhere without seeing one or dozens.
"It's because everything is so lush from all the rain, more eggs hatch," said Dr. Peter Schultz, and entomologist at Virginia Tech's Agriculture Research Center in Hampton Roads.
A lot of the caterpillars you see are harmless, many will become moths, but not all are friendly.
"I picked up the cooler, I smashed the caterpillar against my wrist, and he stung me," said Julie Hammer, a local resident.
Hammer experienced a caterpillar nightmare on Monday night outside her Virginia Beach home.
"It was like nothing I ever experienced ... it was excruciating, it did not let up at all, so the whole time I was in the emergency room I felt like it was being stung," Hammer said.
The suspect was an ugly looking bug known as the Puss Caterpillar. It's one of two poisonous caterpillars found in Hampton Roads. The other is the Saddleback.
"Both of them have the same reaction," Schultz said. "They have these hollow spines that are filled with an acid like material. It protects them from birds -- that's the benefit to the caterpillar."
"Every minute that went by, I felt worse and worse," Hammer said.
Experts say the caterpillar stings are similar to bee stings -- the reaction all depends on the person. But if symptoms like the burning an increased heart beat continue, do what Hammer did and head to a doctor.
One way to stop the pain could be with ordinary tape. Experts say you take a piece of the tape, put it over the spot where you got stung, and, essentially, you pull the stingers out."
"It felt a lot better almost immediately when I used the tape," Hammer said.
The mark on Hammer's arm should fade, but the memory of the sting will last much longer.
"I hope it goes away," she said. "It's still painful to touch."
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