Sunday, August 22, 2010

Stinging Saddleback

Who would guess that something so small and squishy could pack such a wallop? My poor friend Cheryl sure didn't, and she ended up with a painful welt from a little guy a lot like this one:

The one she encountered was in her blueberry bush, and in my yard that's where I usually find them, too. She felt it before she saw it, which is also what happens with me. The one I found today, though, was on the popcorn.

I was cutting the old stalks and leaves up for the compost pile, and happily, I was wearing gloves, AND I saw it in time to avoid the stinging hairs.

The saddleback page from the bugguide website shows the adult moth stage of this caterpillar's lifecycle.

The University of Kentucky's stinging caterpillars page includes other caterpillars to watch out for.

Interestingly, both pages mention that the saddleback is sometimes found on corn. I hadn't seen it there before, but my own yard's corn definitely was home to a saddleback caterpillar this morning!

The University of Kentucky site mentions that the sting can cause "severe irritation," which seems like a huge understatement to me. The bugguide site's description of the sting seems a little closer to the truth, calling it "lasting and painful." Those two words are in line with my own experience.

My friend had never encountered one of these before, even though she is a Georgia-girl from birth. It took a dose of benadryl to reduce the size of the welt she got from the sting, so I hope she isn't ambushed by another one of these ever again!


  1. Wow! I have read about these stinging caterpillars but never seen one or known anyone who has, thanks for the photos, amazing! (and hope your friend is feeling better!)

  2. Erin,

    The first time I got stung by one of these I looked all over the blueberry bush for the culprit. I was just sure it had been to have been some kind of hornet, but the only critter I could find was this funny-looking caterpillar! We looked it up in a bug book, and found out that the culprit was this guy, after all.

    Cheryl was just as surprised when she figured it out as I was! She is better, but based the reaction she had, it seems she might be actually allergic to the sting, which makes it even worse. The good news is that she is better now. Thanks for the kind thoughts.

  3. Thanks for posting, Amy. I hope other gardeners will look out for these caterpillars. They pack a punch!


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