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Post Isaac, residents notice influx of stinging caterpillars

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - Some people in Bay St. Louis are not happy about thousands of new creepy crawly neighbors. Residents in Garden Isle say since Hurricane Isaac, the whole area has been infested with caterpillars. They said they've never had this problem in Garden Isle before, and they want to know how to get rid of the insects.

Whether with bleach, insecticide or the squish of shoe, Allison Rabalais said trying to kill the caterpillars that have invaded her yard seems futile.

"Somehow they managed to get in the downstairs rooms and it was just too many for us to count," Rabalais said. "We're talking in the thousands."

The thousands of caterpillars covering yards in Garden Isle make it look almost like the grass is moving. Residents worry this is just a pit stop before the insects get into their homes.

"We do know they do climb up the wood," said Rabalais. "They're climbing up the pilings. They're climbing up the posts the house is elevated on. So eventually they will make their way up there, and it's not a healthy situation for anybody. We just need to find a good pest control to get rid of them and end this issue because it's disgusting."

The caterpillars are also making themselves at home at the Anderson house. Travis Anderson said he'd seen this type of bug before in Hattiesburg.

"They go into cherry trees, pecan trees. They go up and build a big web," Anderson said. "They'll eat all the leaves in the area of the web and then they disappear. They come out in the fall. This time of the year they normally do it. 

Some residents said the bug's sting is another worry.

"They do sting. My neighbor across the street got stung by one so whether or not it's going to leave a welt or not I'm not sure. But if you get stung by them enough it's not going to be a pretty picture," Rabalais said.

WLOX talked to an expert on insects from the USDA. Randy Pingel said he couldn't be sure without examining one of the caterpillars, but from the photos we showed him it appeared to be a type of Fall Armyworm.  He told us they will eventually go away when there is a frost, but there are some insecticides that can help speed up the process.

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