Monday, September 17, 2012

A cautionary tale.

As I was weeding the other day, I brushed my arm under an iris leaf and thought I'd cut myself. Thought that for about a second anyway. That's when my arm began burning furiously and I looked to see a green and brown spiky caterpillar hanging from the underside of the leaf. Alarm bells going off in my head, I ran inside to run my arm under cold water, then downed a couple of benedryl and slapped an icepack on it while I quickly googled "stinging caterpillars." There it was, a saddleback caterpillar (this image from About.com.) See all those little spines? They use them to inject a powerful venom.
I quickly researched suggested treatments. My favorite site had step-by-step instructions with photos, including one telling you to calm the person who was stung. So after I settled myself down I followed every other suggestion - repeatedly put pieces of tape on the affected areas to pull out any remaining spines, wiped my arm and hand down with lemon juice, applied a paste of baking soda and water, and kept ice on it. And still, it was, as one article put it, "like somebody lit you on fire." It was described also as "a bee sting times a hundred." Truly, it was remarkably painful - it managed to get both my hand and my arm and they hurt intensely for more than an hour. Several days later, I still had a red rash where I'd been hit. I asked my friend this weekend if he'd ever heard of them and he said, "Yes!" and went on to describe the pain of accidentally grabbing a leaf which held one. He said they call them packsaddles around here.
When I went back outside to take a photo, my hands were still shaking and the picture is blurry. But this is the perp, after I knocked him off the leaf and scooped him up with a trowel. I normally leave bugs to their own devices as long as they stay outside. Bumble bees are allowed to hover by my head as I work, lady bugs can crawl on my shirt, inchworms are free to measure my arm. But this one? I killed the little fucker.

35 comments:

  1. Lol! I thought for sure you were going to tell us that you transported him to the woods or something! Im glad he's a goner! I've never seen or heard of such a creature, but he certainly looks ghastly.

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  2. I wonder what they look like once they turn into butterflies. Are there any evil venomous butterflies out there?

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    1. They are quite ugly when they turn into moths:
      http://duggiehoo.deviantart.com/art/Saddleback-Caterpillar-moth-135874332

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  3. Man, I'll take our grizzly bears and mountain lions any day. Never heard of these, sounds worse than centipedes.

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    1. It's the sneaky nature that gets me - they lurk on the undersides of leaves.

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  4. Ghastly is the right word. Good god!

    Last post I admired your grit. This time i admire your competence. Big time.

    Love love
    kj

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    1. If I am alone, as I was, I just do what I have to do. I really think taking benedryl immediately was key since there are common allergic reactions that include nausea and swelling.

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  5. Oh that sounds nasty. Who knows what's lurking out there? I've never heard of venomous caterpillars over here - as yet.

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    1. We live in the foothills of a temperate rain forest, so we get our share of creepy crawlies.

      (And I've done the same thing before, accidentally published a comment under the wrong name!)

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  6. I'm glad you were able to stay calm. I guess that caterpillar isn't bothered much by birds and such. I didn't even know there was such a thing...but the "things I don't know" list is pretty long :)

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    1. I think the "things I don't know" is pretty long for everyone, if they're honest.

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  7. (looking up the number to PETA)

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    1. Go right ahead - I'll be waiting to show them all the spider webs I've left in place.

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  8. Hahaha! I don't blame you one bit!

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    1. I think most people would be disinclined to let him live.

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  9. Oh my gosh, I have never seen anything like that. I am glad you killed the fucker!!!

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  10. yowza! that's a threatening looking critter who i agree needed to meet his maker. hope you're feeling better by now.

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    1. Much - it really only hurt for a couple of days.

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  11. Some gory part of my mind wants to know how you killed it without touching it a second time. Did you fry it with a magnifying glass? Drop a paperweight on it from above? Tap dance on it in hard soled shoes?

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    1. I sprayed it with wasp spray and then mashed it with trowel just in case the poison wasn't enough.

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  12. OMGosh! I never heard of such a thing. I'm sorry sorry you had to go through that. And, um, I'd have smash that nasty guy too.

    Hope you're on the mend. xoxo jj

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  13. oy...man....ack....glad you are ok...and that small satisfaction in returning the offense, you are forgiven...smiles....

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    1. I know the caterpillar was just doing what he was designed to do. Still...

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  14. ooh yucks. hope you're totally fine by now. i'm terrified by these insects that hurt badly. i would have done the same. some salt would have killed it, no ?

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    1. Salt kills slugs but I'm not sure if it works on caterpillars. I wasn't taking any chances, though - I wanted him gone.

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  15. Killing the little bugger should be considered therapeutic.

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  16. Revenge is justified sometimes. I hope these guys don't reside in NC. Yikes

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