Red caterpillars are usually Spiny Elm Caterpillar or pipeline swallowtail caterpillar, a member of the stinging caterpillar family, and can grow up to two inches long. The black, bristly bug has many white patches and a red line along its back. Prolegs are red.
The caterpillar’s venomous spikes can cause mild to moderate pain when touched. According to the University of Florida, some people experience intense pain, numbness, and swelling that lasts for several hours.
The larvae only live for about two months and can be found on elm trees in the northeast United States and Canada in the summer months.
What do red caterpillars turn into?
A red caterpillar can grow into a moth in the family Arctiidae. These moths are not generally pretty like those in the family Saturniidae, which includes luna, Polyphemus, and lappet moths. Instead, arctiid moths are fuzzy, hairy, and drab. They look more like bumblebees than butterflies.
Arctiid moth caterpillars (family Arctiidae) are hairy or spiny; some have horns or tufts of hair. The adult moths look like bumblebees, with drab colors and fuzzy bodies.
Red pipevine swallowtail caterpillars are bright-red caterpillars with black spots. They have a yellow stripe running down their back. When disturbed, they arch their backs and mimic a snake as a defense mechanism. As caterpillars, they feed on common milkweed and dogbane.
Are red caterpillars poisonous?
Some caterpillars that are red have venomous spines on their bodies. They often display bright warning colors to alert predators that they are poisonous. The red-humped caterpillar is one of these types of caterpillars. The spines on this caterpillar’s body contain poison glands, which secrete venom when the creature is disturbed.
The hickory tussock moth caterpillar is another example of a brightly colored caterpillar with an unpleasant defensive mechanism: urticating hairs (urticating is a term for stinging). These hairs can cause dermatitis in humans and other animals if contacted.
Are spiky red caterpillars poisonous?
Red-colored caterpillars, hairy caterpillars, and those with sharp, stinging hairs are usually venomous and shouldn’t be touched. Symptoms of a sting may range from mild redness and swelling to a rash or more severe allergic reaction. Some caterpillars have venomous spines that can cause stinging sensations and rashes.
The most common poisonous caterpillar species in the United States is the puss caterpillar (Megalopyge opercularis), whose fur contains venomous spines. It’s found in the southern part of the country, ranging from Florida to Texas.
According to The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (OSU CAFES), there are two ways to get stung by a poisonous caterpillar: by touching them directly or by brushing up against them in your garden or yard.
Very few caterpillars, however, are dangerous to humans. The most poisonous species are found in tropical regions and are not encountered in the United States.
Red caterpillars are common in areas where they are native. Red caterpillars do not sting like other members of the stinging caterpillar family, but they can give a nasty pinch if they are handled.