Three stinging caterpillars to watch out for

Most caterpillars in the southern region are harmless to people, but lately people have been bumping into a few that have painful results. Here are three to watch out for, thanks to a post from the Landscape Alert at
the University of Georgia:

Puss Caterpillars:

Puss caterpillar

Puss caterpillar

Puss caterpillars may be pale yellow, gray or reddish brown, about 1 inch long and densely covered with hairs. Among these hairs are hollow spines with venom. Stings on the hand can cause the entire arm to swell and become numb. Later, there can be severe pain followed by itching. Young children are often more severely affected. Large population increases in local areas can cause a problem.

Saddleback Caterpillars:

Saddleback caterpillar

Saddleback caterpillar

The saddleback caterpillar is approximately 1 inch long and has a brown slug-like body with a green mid-section. In the middle of the green mid-section there is a distinctive brown saddle mark with a white border. Venom-filled spines are located on fleshy “knobs” on all sides of its body. Contact with this caterpillar’s spines can be extremely painful and severe reactions are possible for sensitive individuals.

Hag Moth Caterpillars:

Hag Moth caterpillar

Hag Moth caterpillar

The hag moth caterpillar is a strange-looking brownish caterpillar with six pairs of curly projections, three long and three short, coming from the flattened body. The plume-like projections on its back project out to the sides, suggesting the disarranged hairs of a hag. Among the brown hairs on the projections are longer black stinging hairs. These caterpillars are solitary and can easily be mistaken for leaf debris.



Control is usually not needed since contact is uncommon and these caterpillars are usually solitary. If a number of stinging caterpillars are seen feeding on the foliage around areas where children are active, spray the foliage with an insecticide labeled for tree and shrub application. Remember, dead caterpillars can still cause painful stings. Spread a cloth or plastic sheet under a tree or shrub to collect the fallen dead caterpillars, and then carefully dispose of them.

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