Fir tussock moth caterpillars return to Marion County in abundance

It’s that time of year again: fir tussock moth season.

If you’re in Florida and have ventured outside lately anywhere with oak trees, you may have encountered a unique caterpillar — or hundreds.

The ubiquitous insect undergoing its annual outbreak is the fir tussock moth, or Orgyia detrita for those who prefer scientific nomenclature. The creatures, which are abundant throughout the state, can cause skin irritation, so read up before rounding them up or otherwise touching them.

“In my experience, it’s always happening in this part, North Central Florida, at this time of year. Late March and April, we get big numbers of these things,” said James Hayden, a taxonomist with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry.

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