Stinging Caterpillars are Out and About

Kali Zammit, Schmit, Rene G.  |  4/28/2015 11:42:17 PM

Saddleback Moth Stinging Caterpillar

Buck Moth Stinging Caterpillar

Puss Moth Stinging Caterpillar

Stinging caterpillars are out and will remain active on a variety of oaks and other shade trees well until the end of May. There are four types to be concerned with that include the Saddleback, IO moth, Buck moth, and Puss moth caterpillars. The Saddleback caterpillar has prominent barbed horns on the front and rear of its body and a noticeable green saddle on its center body. The IO moth caterpillar is light green in color and covered with black pointed green spines and a white or yellow and reddish line that runs the length of its lower body. The Buck moth caterpillar has a reddish head and small white spots and spiny barbed structures protruding from each segment of its body. The Puss moth caterpillar resembles a small egg shaped object and is covered with a light to dark brown fuzzy fur.

In landscapes where control may become necessary, populations of stinging caterpillars can be reduced by spraying infested trees with an insecticidal product containing either spinosad, carbaryl, or bi-fentrhin, permethrin, or cyfluthrin. Mature trees too large for home gardeners to spray effectively would need to have a professional tree spraying company do the job. If conducting a self-removal of stinging caterpillars from walkways, patios, and landscape areas, be sure to wear protective clothing and gloves.

Keep in mind that all four of these type caterpillars produce a painful, burning sting when its spines are contacted. Generally, a caterpillar sting is discomforting due to lingering pain and swelling that follows but often is not a serious health threat. A caterpillar sting however, can be serious to individuals allergic to insect venom. In general, those who are highly allergic to insect bites and stings should seek immediate medical attention when stung by a caterpillar.

First aid for stings can be treated by putting adhesive tape over the affected area repeatedly to remove any spine tips. (Be sure to use fresh strips of tape each time). After removing the spines, thoroughly wash the area with soap and water which helps to remove any remaining, irritating venom. Prompt application of an ice-pack and a baking soda poultice as well as meat tenderizer, calamine lotion, Aloe or any other favorite sting treating remedies can also help with reducing pain and swelling.

It is not unusual this time of year to encounter stinging caterpillars in shade trees or wandering around on lawns, sidewalks, driveways, patios, porches and on shrubs. For this reason, children in particular should be shown what these caterpillars look like and cautioned about touching them. For pictures of these stinging caterpillars, the LSU AgCenter has an excellent online publication you can view and print. To access this publication, click here.
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