Caterpillars that are brightly colored, have spines or hairs are probably venomous and should not be touched. ” If it is in a place where it can cause problems, clip off the leaf or use a stick to relocate it,” Ric Bessin, an entomologist at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, tells USA TODAY.
Caterpillars of many species can cause irritation by their hollow body hairs that envenom or detach easily, or can be poisonous if ingested; however, prior to investigations into Lonomia caterpillars , it was not known that caterpillars could produce toxins which in sufficient quantities could kill a human being.
Some caterpillars do have urticating spines that could raise water blisters if you brushed them along the inside of your arm. These caterpillars would be poisonous but not fatal if swallowed, but are not dangerous in any way to touch. Children can safely touch them or have them crawl on their hands.
A fluffy caterpillar is one of the most venomous caterpillars in the United States . The puss caterpillar (Megalopyge opercularis) has hidden toxic spines underneath its fur.
There is no practical way to kill the adults or pupae. It’s important to spray an infested tree, or have it sprayed, before the large caterpillars begin to migrate to the ground. The best time to treat for these stinging caterpillars is in mid- to late March. This allows time for most of the eggs to hatch.
Note: However cute these little guys might look, their hairs (setae) are barbed and venomous, so avoid touching them with your bare hands. While coming into contact with their setae won’t kill you, it can cause a serious rash and allergic reaction.
When a puss moth caterpillar rubs or is pressed against a person’s skin, its venomous hairs are embedded, usually causing severe burning and a rash . Pain usually subsides in about an hour. Occasionally, the reaction is more severe, causing swelling, nausea, and difficulty breathing.
Many caterpillars have hairs or spines. In contact with human skin, they can cause pain, rashes, itching, burning, swelling, and blistering. Avoiding caterpillars is best. Remove spines by applying and removing tape to strip the irritating hairs and spines out of the skin.
One of the most toxic and deadliest caterpillars is the Giant Silkworm moth or South American Caterpillar (Lonomia obliqua). These extremely toxic larvae can grow up to 2” (5.5 cm) long and be shades of green or brown. Their bodies are covered with urticating spines that contain potentially deadly poison .
For plants, a regular spray of a molasses solution (1 tablespoon molasses, 1 teaspoon dish soap, and a liter of warm water) or a garlic solution (three crushed cloves of garlic, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon dish soap, and a liter of water) will deter insects from munching.
Most caterpillars are perfectly safe to handle . But do be warned: Some caterpillars should not be touched . Generally, avoid the brightly colored ones—bright colors warn predators that they are toxic—and especially the fuzzy, hairy, and bristly ones.
Both physicians advise that a person stung should apply an ice pack, then a paste of baking soda and water, followed by hydrocortisone cream. “I also recommend an oral antihistamine, such as Benadryl if the sting is severe, and Ibuprofen can be given orally if it is needed for pain,” says Dr. Kerut.
When spring arrives, woolly bears spin fuzzy cocoons and transform inside them into full-grown moths. Typically, the bands at the ends of the caterpillar are black , and the one in the middle is brown or orange, giving the woolly bear its distinctive striped appearance.
These caterpillars become moths within months of hatching. The larvae feed on a wide range of flowering plants and prefers herbs as their diet. They are not poisonous and do not inject any type of venom as many think due to their fuzzy hair.
Touching a caterpillar can cause redness, swelling, itching, rash , welts, and small, fluid-filled sacs called vesicles. There may also be a burning or stinging sensation. See the photo below for an example of what symptoms of a rash caused by a caterpillar may look like on a human arm.