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4 Venomous Caterpillars Flourishing in Florida

4 Venomous Caterpillars Flourishing in Florida

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:

Video uploaded by rwsphoto via YouTube.

Here is a puss caterpillar or wooly slug whose fur contains stinging spines:

Video uploaded by Scythemantis via YouTube.

This hag moth caterpillar or monkey slug is covered in tiny stingers; its furry “arms” sometimes fall off.

Video uploaded by boyersmile via YouTube.

This io moth caterpillar was found not in Florida, but Staten Island:

Video uploaded by valeriedruguet via YouTube.

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Photo of a puss caterpillar by touterse

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373 comments

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11:01AM PDT on Apr 8, 2014

These little guys are cute, not for touching though. Any creatures that have sort of attention-getting appearances might be dangerous.

10:59AM PDT on Apr 8, 2014

These little guys are cute

1:00PM PST on Feb 24, 2014

I've never seen any of these guys before, but if I did, I'd watch from a distance!

7:38PM PST on Feb 15, 2014

:o

7:26PM PST on Jan 22, 2014

Interesting! Signed and noted.

7:50PM PST on Jan 21, 2014

All creatures on this earth have a purpose and a right to life. However I hope I never run into any of these.

12:21PM PST on Jan 11, 2014

Thanks for sharing. Nature is just lovely.

7:26PM PST on Dec 30, 2013

They are lovely...and let's remember they turn themselves into buttterflies.

6:24AM PST on Dec 29, 2013

Grazie.

1:50AM PST on Dec 28, 2013

I generally don't touch caterpillars with my hands, just in case. If I need to move one, they will walk on to a paper or leaf placed in their way, and then you can carry it to a better location.

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Thanks for the startling information, but the quality of writing in this article is just bad.

I know that I'm getting old because videos like this make me weep :) Adorable!

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