October is the month where fearfully good frights are part of our delights. With this in mind, let’s look at some scary creatures out there you might have overlooked.
Venomous caterpillars aren’t the scream of the movies, but take it from me, they will have you howling if you’re unfortunate enough to brush up against one. From gorgeous, outlandish-sized silk moths to drab, easily overlooked small, brownish slug moths, the caterpillar form of some of these beauties pack a real punch.
One of the giant silkworm moths, our stunning Io moth has big round eye-like markings on the hind wings that are not seen when the moth is at rest. Disturbed, it will snap open the forewings to flash those eye spots and hopefully scare away any predators looking for a snack. So colorful that it is impossible to overlook, males are bright yellow with orange-hued spotting and females are larger and a bright orange-red color. The hidden eye spots are black ringed with yellow and spotted with white, resembling the orb of an eyeball.
The caterpillar of this beauty is bright apple green and covered in longitudinal rows of green spines. Along the body will also be a long red and white racing stripe, much like the detailing on the side of a sports car. You’d be wise to speed away when you see it because brushing up against those hollow spines will allow the barbed hairs to break off and envenomate your skin. Hours of itching, redness and burning await and allergic reactions are possible so closely monitor any change in symptoms for about eight hours.
Puss caterpillars don’t even look like a caterpillar but more like a tiny inch-long toupee. Beneath the flowing hairlike surface however are hidden rows of white spines. Envenomation happens if you brush up against them or handle the caterpillar, allowing the hollow hairs to break off into your skin. Symptoms include severe pain and includes fever, nausea and possibly seizures.
Saddleback caterpillars are immediately recognizable by their bright green “saddle” marking, which is a clear message of stay away if you know what’s good for you. Measuring merely three-quarters of an inch in size, they pack a real wallop for those unfortunate enough to pick up this spiky creature. The toxins within the hollow spines cause intense burning, redness, swelling and hives. Tissue damage is possible, so medical attention is recommended.
If you happen to experience an unexpected encounter with one of these stinging caterpillars, Florida Poison Control suggests applying adhesive tape over the row of welts to pull up remaining stinging hairs before cleansing with soap and cool water. Cool compresses and elevating the limb during the first 24 hours is helpful but if hives, swelling or breathing issues develop, an emergency room visit for supportive care is in order.