PLAGUE: The hidden danger of these creatures
FOR two weeks 18-month-old Alice-Rose McNaught had to be fed through a syringe.
It was one in a series of horrific symptoms following a split-second encounter with a moth including violent vomiting, a severe mouth and face rash and ongoing dizzy spells.
The tot had been playing at a Gunalda park last September, when she put a white cedar moth in her mouth.
The hair covering the moth is toxic and known to cause skin irritation and abortions in pregnant horses.
The moth's baby equivalent - the white cedar moth caterpillar has been turning up in plague-like proportions in Gympie region gardens recently.
The sudden creepy-crawly explosion has triggered Alice-Rose's mother Danni Clifford to warn parents about the dangers of it and the moth, which could follow in large numbers.
"It was a really scary thing to happen," she said.
"If it was a younger baby they might not have survived.
"It was a long road to get better."
READ HERE: 'Killer' caterpillar invasion hits
Alice-Rose had been rushed to hospital where they found her heart rate elevated and she was unable to swallow - requiring a steroid injection.
Ms Clifford believes the caterpillars do not lose any toxicity when they transform into the moth.
"It's just like putting toxins in your mouth.
A Department of Agriculture and Fisheries spokesman said hairy caterpillars were a native species and their numbers fluctuated seasonally.
He said they were not a pest dealt with by the Department.
Scientific Pest Management owner Brett Johnstone said significant wet weather often left water pooling at the base of trees, where the caterpillars gathered in droves, and that sent the caterpillars scattering looking for shelter.
He said they usually didn't become active until around September, but thought the wet weather coupled with the heat and humidity may have sent them through another life cycle and drawn them out earlier.
Mr Johnstone said he hadn't come across them too often in his 16 years spent in the pest control industry.
He said they could be killed with insecticide, but it was usually not necessary as they normally "just move on".
He said it was unusual for them to get into houses as they were so slow-moving.