Venomous Caterpillars

May 11th, 2012

…a public service announcement…

Buck Moth Caterpillar

Buck Moth Caterpillar

Venomous caterpillars? Yes. If you see one of these things, don’t touch it. Even if it’s dead. If you want the graphic version of the warning, click here.

I suspected this might be one of the several types of venomous caterpillars, even though I didn’t know what it was when I took these photos. Those spines just look ominous.

Buck Moth Spines

Buck Moth Spines

Click the photo above to enlarge it. You’ll see that each spine looks like a micro hypodermic needle and that is essentially what it is.

These critters were crawling all over the outside of the house yesterday afternoon. The experts say they’ll be around for a few weeks and then will burrow and pupate to turn into spectacular moths.

Thanks to the folks at the excellent bug site bugguide.net for the ID. If you want to know about other caterpillars you shouldn’t touch, the University of Kentucky has an illustrated guide.

8 Responses to “Venomous Caterpillars”

  1. Ray says:

    Holy cow! I never knew these things existed (Tropical rain forests, maybe but not in Virginia.) Their appearance alone would make me back off.

    • entangled says:

      I’m glad I looked them up before I made closer acquaintance. If you don’t look very closely, they look like any other fuzzy caterpillar. It was only when I got the photo on the computer screen that I could see how nasty those spines look.

  2. Yipes, Entangled – one link led to another and I ended up in Louisiana where war has been declared against the Buck Moth caterpillars… with reason, it seems. They are weirdly beautiful but the stories of permanent damage are creeping me out. I have a couple of live oaks so this is good to know. May be wrapping the trunks in aluminum foil next year just to see if they are here.

    Annie

    • entangled says:

      I actually did admire the pattern of the spines before I understood their purpose. They remind me of some sort of sea creature. And I must have seen one or two before this year without really noticing them, but suddenly they’re everywhere. I hope you don’t have any!

      • I’d rather look at them in photo than run into one, Entangled! In your photo the caterpillar reminds me of Victorian Jet jewelry (wikipedia says that was lignite.) There was that whole time period when jewelry was made to look like dragonflies and beetles and other insects so I can imagine a Buck Caterpillar Hair ornament!

        Annie

        PS You asked about indexing the 1940 census … it is time-consuming but very satisfying. I’ve already indexed more than 6000 people from many states and feel as if I have learned more about some parts of the country. There’s a lot of cross-checking involved, so having an Ancestry subscription helps and for the geography place names, need both Wikipedia and Google maps.

        • entangled says:

          I had to look up jet jewelry. I’d seen the black mourning jewelry before, but it never occurred to me to ask what it was made of. So it’s fossilized wood, and that would make the whole thing come full circle if you made insect jewelry out of it – kind of a satisfying idea! I haven’t seen many more of the caterpillars, by the way. They were present in large numbers on the day I looked them up, but fewer and fewer each day after.

          I’m so happy there are wise and skilled volunteers working away on the census. I remember reading that the Soundex indexing of the early 1900s censuses was done as a WPA project; there’s an interesting article about it on the archives website:

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