There are four dangerous caterpillars in Louisiana that residents, and gardeners in particular, need to watch out for. Children also need to be taught what these caterpillars look like and warned not to touch them, as some of the worst ones tend to look rather fuzzy and cute. These four caterpillars are the puss moth caterpillar, the IO moth caterpillar, the saddleback caterpillar, and the buck moth caterpillar. All four of these insects cause a very painful sting that burns when they touch human skin. While for most people they will only cause some serious discomfort, those with allergies to insect venom need to be extra careful, as they could experience serious health problems that could put them in the emergency room. Around this time of year it is common to spot these caterpillars wandering around our lawns, driveways, patios, porches, sidewalks, and on shrubs.
The IO moth caterpillar is easy to recognize due to its bright lime or chartreuse coloring that have thin burgundy and white stripes down each side. Those chartreuse spines cover their entire body in thick clusters. They can be found on a variety of plants, but tend to be especially common on crape myrtles.
The puss moth caterpillar, also known as stinging asps in the New Orleans area, is small and egg-shaped with light to dark brown fuzz all over their bodies. These fine brown hairs cover their body in a thick carpet, and will deliver a very painful sting if touched by humans. Gardeners will want to be vigilant when working outside, and make sure to wear long sleeves and gloves for protection.
The saddleback caterpillar is another one that is easy to recognize. It has what looks like bright green saddle on the center of its back and prominent barbed horns on its rear and head.
The buck moth caterpillar is one you want to make sure to warn your children about. It has a reddish-colored head and a body covered in small white dots in addition to the spiny barbs that protrude from all over its body. What makes these caterpillars particularly dangerous is their habitat. The female adult moths lay their eggs in the canopy of trees on the small twigs clustered up high. The tend to lay their clusters of 80 to 100 eggs on live oaks and water oaks. When the eggs hatch, they feed on the leaves of the oak trees and will molt several times before they begin their descent. During the molting process, some of the caterpillars lose their hold on their branch and fall on people passing under the tree or onto the ground. When they do move en masse down the tree after they have finished eating, they can wander around people’s lawns, sidewalks, and porches, which is where children tend to come across them and pick up the curious-looking creatures.
Have you ever come across one of these four caterpillars? Were you stung by one? Contact us today for a free pest inspection.
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