BEWARE the Caterpillar


I discovered the oddest creature, it fell right out of the Oak tree onto me! Arching my back, I flung it off onto the wooden planks, where it inched around the big fern. It had long tufts of snow-white hair, lots of little stubby feet, and evil black horns. Unlucky for me, the catepillar stung through my fur. Perhaps it was the odd howl that came next, or the collapse onto my side, eyes rolling and tongue panting. One look at me and my owner shrieked at the kids to call Doctor so-and-so. “Where is that insect identification book when you need it? Go look on the computer, Google “stinging caterpillars and key in the description.”pussmoth

No, it was not a common White-Marked Tussock Moth, they don’t sting. They have a distinctive red head. Also on the porch, flung onto the fern, was a super-hairy Asp. This is a toxic caterpillar
with the sting feeling “often very severe, radiating up a limb and causing burning, swelling… with headache, abdominal pain, skin rashes and blisters, and even chest pain or difficulty breathing.” (Eagleman 2008).

There was now a noticeable swelling on my back, and I was having trouble breathing. Thank goodness we keep Benadryl around. I didn’t even mind when the sticky stuff was squirted down my throat. I was wrapped in a towel and carried to the waiting car. We zoomed off in a haze and I fell asleep. The next thing I remember was a bright light…

No, it wasn’t kitty heaven, I have used up only 3 of my 9 lives. I was recovering in the animal hospital. The Dr. had removed the barb still stuck in my back with tweezers. Using commercial tape, the doctor had repeatedly placed fresh pieces over the wound and slowly pulled them off, removing any remaining hairs. Next, hot soapy water was used to clean the area. A topical antihistamine was applied and then an ice-pack to reduce the swelling. The quick reaction of my owner probably saved my life!

Upon returning home, I went to my favorite book and looked up “Poisonous Caterpillars in North Carolina.” It listed the Asp as the most toxic! A few others to beware of:

1. The bright colored Spiny Oak Slug Caterpillar. The vibrant orange and red stripe across it’s light-green back warn of poisonous spines.

2. The Saddleback Caterpillar, looking very slug-like and found in the garden. This guy has a brown body, green horse-saddle (really, it looks just one) with a distinctive brown spot in the center of it’s back.

3. The Stinging Rose Caterpillar (often found on rose bushes), has beautiful colors of vivid yellows, reds, purples, and oranges. It almost looks like blown glass, smooth with the yellow tendrils sticking out full of poisonous barb.