The Southern Flannel Moth (Megalopyge opercularis) is named for the texture of its wings, and is found commonly in woodlands and forests in the Southeast. The adult moth emerges in the spring, after having overwintered in its cocoon. The moth will only live about 5-7 days in which time the female deposits her eggs one of a variety of woody plants.
The larva of the flannel moth, also known as the Puss Caterpillar, grows to no more than an inch in length and is covered in dense gray to tan hairs, giving it a furry appearance. The hairs appear to be combed into a crest at the to
p of its body and extend in a tail-like tuft from the back. Younger caterpillars’ hairs are white and wispier.
Although this caterpillar may look soft, it is armed with an intense defense strategy. Venemous spines are hidden beneath the tuft of hairs, and when agitated, this caterpillar can administer one of the most painful stings of any caterpillar found in the United States. The puss caterpillar feeds on woody plants, and it is not a stranger to the Live Oak dominated forests of Little St. Simons Island. If you come across this little creature, marvel at its peculiarity, but don’t pet it!