Saddleback caterpillar, Acharia stimulea

The pain receptors on Marianne Tyndall’s arm found this impressively spiny caterpillar on some garden vegetation yesterday. The caterpillar is about two inches long. Its sting causes pain that feels like a combination of burning skin and tearing muscle. Pretty impressive. The pain is bad enough to cause some people to call a poison center, as reported here. Note that the paper in this link uses the old genus name, Sibine. The paper also relates events in Louisiana where people evidently have different attitudes to caterpillar attacks — in Sewanee, we suck up the pain, then carefully gather the caterpillar to bring it to fellow naturalists.

The stinging hairs deter predatory wasps and assassin bugs. Wasps learn to recognize the caterpillars and after a few inspections, leave them well alone.

The colorful caterpillar turns into a fuzzy brown moth.

8 thoughts on “Saddleback caterpillar, Acharia stimulea

  1. Country Mouse

    Wow! That’s an impressive looking critter – I admire the moral fiber of you Sewanneeans too! I just got a low power stereo microscope for my birthday and spent some time looking at the teeny black bugs infesting a plant. Dammit they were CUTE and now I don’t know if I can even do the water jet treatment on them any more!!

  2. Robley Hood

    David, I lived in New Orleans for over twenty years, where the stinging caterpillars fell from Live Oaks in battalions. Once I was riding my bicycle through my Audubon Park neighborhood, enjoying a beautiful Sunday morning, until suddenly one of the dadgum things fell into my shirt and stayed there. I crashed my bike, which should almost be needless to say, and desperately searched for the thing. Ouch!

    And good on Marianne! She once came into The Lemon Fair and told me to get my camera. When I got outside, she happily showed my a praying mantis eating a grasshopper. Love that happy gardener.

  3. Pingback: Crowned Slug Moth, Isa textula | Ramble

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