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7 Types Of Venomous Caterpillars

May 14, 2015

The neighborhood kids and I used to spend hours climbing the hundred-year-old banyan tree at the end of our street. From our 10-year-old perspectives, the tree was magical. The thick vines that hung from the canopy provided us a way to recreate ‘Indiana Jones’-like swinging moves and ‘Mission Impossible’-esque escape routes during our hide-and-seek games. To take shade in a tunnel created by the thick roots of the banyan meant to be in the hiding spot of choice. Though if you were more of a free-spirited 10 year-old, swaying with the wind near the canopy, 25 feet above ground may have been your thing.

Regardless of your preferences, the 100-year-old banyan tree was magical. It even had magical insects crawling on it! Bright orange and furry, none of us had ever seen a caterpillar like it. At the time, we had the good sense to STAY AWAY, judging by the bright color and spines. And even though this particular caterpillar may not have been poisonous, there are quite a few in the area that are!

Venomous Caterpillars don’t have stingers but have spines that look like fine hair. The spines are connected to poison glands in the caterpillar’s body. People may have different reactions to contact with a venomous caterpillar. Some people require immediate medical attention. Others experience mild itching and burning.

In the case of a venomous caterpillar sting:

  • Use clear tape over the affected area. Press on and pull off repeatedly to remove the spines.

  • Apply ice to the affected area to reduce the stinging.

  • Cover the area with a homemade paste comprised of baking soda and water.

  • If you have a history of allergies, contact a physician immediately.

There are 7 common types of venomous caterpillars in the Southeastern United States that you should be aware of.

Saddleback Caterpillar

This venomous caterpillar is brown with a green pattern on its back. In the center of the green pattern is a brown oval. This oval resembles a saddle with a green saddle blanket.

The Saddleback Caterpillar is an inch in length and is built stout. It has two pairs of protuberances at the front and back of its body. The hairs on the protuberances are stingers. They feed mostly on plants. Specifically: hibiscus and palms.

Puss Caterpillar

This awkward-looking caterpillar is completely covered with gray, soft hairs. Under the soft hairs are the stiff spines which are attached to poison glands.  When touched, the harder spines will break off in your skin and cause severe pain. The Puss Caterpillar feeds mostly on broad leaf trees and shrubs and are most often found on oaks and citrus trees.

IO Moth Caterpillar

The IO Moth Caterpillar is pale green with yellow and red stripes running down the middle of its body. It exceeds 2 inches in length and is built stout.  The spines on the many side protuberances are yellow with black tips. This caterpillar feeds primarily on plants. Ixora and rose are its favorites.

Hag Caterpillar

The Hag Caterpillar is light to dark brown covered in fine, hag-like, stinging hair.  The Hag Caterpillar is found on various forest trees and ornamental shrubs. This caterpillar species is uncommon.

Buck Moth Caterpillar

The Buck Moth Caterpillar is very large: 1 ¾ to 2 ¼ inches long.

It has a yellow-brown to purple-black colored body with many small white spots and a reddish head.  The Buck Moth Caterpillar feeds primarily on oak, willow and other deciduous plants.

Spiny Oak-Slug Caterpillar

The Spiny Oak-Slug Caterpillar is pale-green and only ¾ of inch long.  Its favorite foods are oak, willow and other deciduous plants.

Flannel Moth Caterpillar

The Flannel Moth Caterpillar is about 1 inch long. Its stinging hairs are intermixed with soft hairs in little tufts.  It feeds primarily on oak and various other shrubs and trees.

As with all venomous pests: STAY AWAY. If you are seeing an abundance of these on your plants, please call a pest control professional! Contact Nozzle Nolen today for a free inspection!



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