Warning: Donald Trump caterpillar can cause burning irritation. Do not touch it.

This crawling combover, a flannel moth caterpillar in the genus Megalopyge, was spotted in Peru recently by wildlife photographer Jeff Cremer of Peru Nature. Cremer, who's known for his stunning camera trap work, was en route to check on his tech when he encountered the hairy creature on a nearby branch. 

"I went over to see what it was, and sure enough, it was Donald Trump's hair hanging out on a tree!" he says. "I needed to be careful when taking the pictures because there was a little breeze and the stinging hairs started coming off and floating around."

Those hairs might look soft and fluffy – the local name for the critter is ovejillo ("little sheep") – but they're actually "urticating" hairs, which are covered in tiny bristles that cause burning, itching and redness. 

While touching an urticating insect or arachnid (these hairs also cover the bodies of many tarantulas) won't kill you, the experience is excruciating enough to deter a would-be predator. "If one of them touched my skin or landed in my eye it could have been a bad situation," says Cremer. "It would be 'no bueno' if I got anaphylactic shock in the jungle." This particular caterpillar's spines typically leave bright red welts in their wake.

Each hollow bristle is connected to venom-producing cells. Combined, the structure works like a tiny, hypodermic needle. Let's take a closer look:
Image: Jeff Cremer/Facebook
Image: Jeff Cremer/Facebook
Cremer recently teamed up with the students at Lima's Innovation Academy, and we're curious to see what they'll find and photograph next!



Top header image: Jeff Cremer