Editor’s note: This post is a Care2 favorite, back by popular demand. It was originally posted on April 14, 2012. Enjoy!
Warm weather is here after a mild winter and, in southern Florida, stinging caterpillars are flourishing. As temperatures continue to warm, caterpillars will be hatching from their eggs and seeking to survive the weeks until they become moths. The Sun-Sentinel says that the Florida Poison Information Center in Miami received 227 calls about poisonous caterpillars last year with some people in a state of deep alarm due to the pain of their bite, said to be a “bee sting times a hundred” according to Michael Stanwyck, who has been stung six times.
Only 2 percent of butterfly and moth larvae survive to adulthood, says Jaret Daniels, assistant professor of entomology at the University of Florida and assistant curator of the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera & Biodiversity. So while humans have reason to be wary of the four poisonous species — the saddleback caterpillar, the puss caterpillar, the io caterpillar and the hag caterpillar – Daniels urges homeowners to “coexist.” As he says, “If you’re a caterpillar, you have a very challenging life because everything wants to eat you. You’re out there on the plant, and you’re a big, fleshy meal.”
The caterpillars’ venomous spines are used to defend them from birds, lizards and other predators.
This video shows a saddleback caterpillar:
Here is a puss caterpillar or wooly slug whose fur contains stinging spines:
This hag moth caterpillar or monkey slug is covered in tiny stingers; its furry “arms” sometimes fall off.
This io moth caterpillar was found not in Florida, but Staten Island:
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Photo of a puss caterpillar by touterse