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Attack of the Killer Caterpillar

Bear Bibeault
Author and ninkuma

Joined: Jan 10, 2002
Posts: 63858

OK, so I'm taking down the Halloween lights from the Mountain Laurel on the side of the garage when I feel a prick on the back of my hand just below where the thumb and index finger meet. Kinda felt like a thorn prick and I think "Mountain Laurels don't have thorns" briefly before forgetting about it.

A few moments later, I am reminded when the "thorn prick" starts burning. Big time. Like a wasp sting. "Ouch" I say, and look the hand over. Sure enough, the area is starting to swell and turn pink.

Then it starts to develop welts and to itch and burn quite strongly.

Thinking that there must be a wasp hiding in the leaves, I carefully part the branches where I felt the prick to find this fellow feeding away:

Now I've never heard of caterpillars that sting, but those spines do look like they mean business!

So off to the Internet I go and within a few minutes discover that, yes, there are a number of varieties of stinging caterpillars, and that my little buddy there is the larvae of an Io Moth.

The venom is delivered by the black spines.

The sting is not dangerous, just painful. A rubbing with Benadryl cream took the itch away, and a few hours later, the swelling has started to subside. I didn't think to get a shot of my hand in its full, swollen glory.

Watch out for these little guys. They definitely do not like to be messed with!

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Christophe Verré

Joined: Nov 24, 2005
Posts: 14688

larvae of an Io Moth

I'd rather meet him than a wasp. He looks nice, but what a name !
[ November 06, 2007: Message edited by: Christophe Verre ]

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Bear Bibeault
Author and ninkuma

Joined: Jan 10, 2002
Posts: 63858

Originally posted by Christophe Verre:
I'd rather meet him than a wasp.

I don't know about that. I've been stung by my share of wasps, and this hurt more!

I checked and he was still munching away on the same branch today.

FYI, an imago stage (adult) Io Moth:
Doug Slattery
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 15, 2007
Posts: 294
I'd rather meet him than a wasp.

Or one of these...
I can't vouch if it is for real or not, but over here, it's the other way around. I've been bitten before, and the last time was on the a$$! One crawled in my shorts while I was taking a nap on the couch. I woke up with my back side stinging and when I got up to go check it out, a 6 incher fell out. Those are some mean nasty creepy critters.

Here's an article on what they're like here.
I've seen them a foot long like the article says.
Insecticides like Raid won't kill them. I chased one down the street one day to see for myself and the thing just sped up until it jumped into a storm drain.
They are hard to kill. The sure fire method is to cut the head off. Don't cut it in half. If you do, now you have two centipedes running in different directions. By cutting off the head, the body will run off in a different direction, but it can't bite any more. A hard sole shoe can do it, but it takes several stomps if the thing is on carpeting. Make sure you stomp the head though.
If you see one in your house or apartment, catch it at all costs. If not, it will find a hiding spot until it gets hungry.
One last thing... There is an unconfirmed superstition over here that they always travel in pairs.


-- Nothing is impossible if I'mPossible
[ November 05, 2007: Message edited by: Doug Slattery ]
Bear Bibeault
Author and ninkuma

Joined: Jan 10, 2002
Posts: 63858

Ewww, nasty. Call me a big softie but I couldn't watch any more than a few seconds of that.
It is sorta covered in the JavaRanch Style Guide.
subject: Attack of the Killer Caterpillar
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