Saddleback caterpillars (Acharia stimulea or Sibine stimulea) are highly poisonous and carry nasty stingers. Saddleback Caterpillars are extremely dangerous as the hairs on their backs can cause severe allergic reactions, or even anaphylactic shock, in the slightest contact.
The saddleback caterpillar, an inch long and with a distinctive green, brown, and orange saddle-shaped marking on its back, may be one of the most beautiful — and deadliest — insects in North America. The bug gets its name from the patch of brown fur in the middle of its back that looks like a cowboy’s saddle.
According to Ohio State University researchers, these “stinging” caterpillars don’t bite; they have hollow spines that store poison.
When a person touches one of these spines, it breaks off in their skin and releases the poison. The spine remains embedded in the skin, while the poison spreads out over time to cause pain and discomfort.
In addition to their spines, which are hollow needles containing poison glands, saddleback caterpillars also have fine hairs. These hairs can cause skin irritation when touched.
Can saddleback caterpillars kill you?
Saddleback caterpillars have small spikes all over their back that can result in discomfort, nausea, and pain when you come in contact with them. Though Saddleback stings can’t kill you, the sting can be debilitating in other ways.
To understand why Saddleback caterpillars are so dangerous, it is important to know what they look like. The body of a saddleback caterpillar is an emerald green color with a dark brown saddle on its back. As the name suggests, this caterpillar gets its name from the brown patch on its back that looks like a saddle. This saddle has white spots on it that give it a unique appearance set apart from other caterpillars.
The spikes on a saddleback caterpillar are called urticating hairs and are found all over their green body with the exception of their brown saddle. These urticating hairs can cause stinging or burning sensations when touched.
What happens if you get stung by a saddleback caterpillar?
Touching these hidden but hazardous saddleback caterpillars can result in an aching sensation that lasts anywhere from 24 hours to two days and may be accompanied by nausea within the first few hours. If you’ve been stung by one of these critters, wash your hands as soon as possible with soap and warm water. If your eyes, mouth, or ears come into contact with the venom, flush them out immediately with water or saline solution.
What moth does a saddleback caterpillar turn into?
The saddleback caterpillar turns into Acharia stimulea (Clemens), which is a limacodid moth.
Its wingspan is about 1.5 inches, and its overall color is dark brown with a pale cream-colored band crossing the wings near the middle. This band of color makes an excellent camouflage when crouched down because it resembles a twig.
The hindwings are orange with black patches at their base on both sides, and the underside of the wing is a pale brown-gray. The larvae are often mistaken for snakes due to their large eyespots and defensive spines, but in reality, this species poses very little threat to humans.
In summary, the saddleback caterpillar presents a potential threat to both humans and animals alike. The saddleback caterpillar’s hairs may cause a painful rash and itching, but they can also have serious health consequences. Stings to the face or eyes can be particularly problematic and even potentially fatal.