08 June, 2015

Nasty, Pepper-Eating, Stinging Caterpillar

A real piece of work. Pretty as a picture, sure, but nature tends to colorize some of its critters according to their degree of nastiness. This is one of the more colorful.

Our caretaker, Carlos, discovered one of these this morning in one of our raised beds in the garden. The one in the picture below, is his partner. Carlos smooshed the offending one. That is a pepper leaf that he's munching on.
Saddleback Caterpillar - Jalapeño Eating, Stinging, Nastiness
Just yesterday, I found a new 'sub-reddit' on reddit.com (https://www.reddit.com/r/whatsthisbug). As you can see, it has a real technical name 'What's This Bug?' Anyhoo, Dianna called me to come down to the garden with my camera as she and Carlos had found a really nasty bug.

I had been working on another post about Doctor Flies, but that's another story. I grabbed the camera and hot-footed it down to the garden. Carlos and Dianna pointed this little guy out to me and showed me Carlos' puffed up finger. He had just lightly brushed the caterpillar with his finger as he was harvesting Jalapeño peppers from one of the bushes. He reported it stung like the dickens and I could see his finger was puffed up.

I snapped a couple of shots with my trusty Nikon and came back up to the office. After down-loading the photo to my PC and cropping it in Picasa, I sent it to my Dropbox account. I then looked up the URL from yesterday. I had saved a bookmark of it. What's This Bug? An appropriate name. Anyway, I posted the picture, described where we were (Corozal, Belize, all that sort of stuff) and posted it. About two minutes later, I got my first comment:
Nice, that is a Saddleback Caterpillar of some sort or another in the Acharia genus I expect. There is only one species in the US, yours is a slightly different species. That is how nature says "Do Not Touch". The parts that look like they will sting the shit out of you will sting the shit out of you.
On the upside, they don't get that big...at least they don't get that big in the US, so that one is probably most of the way grown, and most of the way done eating your peppers.
First aid on this sort of thing is to take some stickytape and use it to remove any remaining urticating spines and venom sacks, then apply antihistamine cream and cover. Pretty much the same as a bee sting, in terms of treatment.
I just now applied the first aid to Carlos. He said it seemed to help. BTW, his finger (left bird finger, for those who crave details) was numb.

And so, there you are. In short order, we found out what it was, and how to treat the effects. Worth the price of admission. Let me add, if you aren't regularly surfing reddit.com, you're missing one of the greatest sources of information, trivia, WTF info, and stuff you just can't do without on a daily basis. Heck, it might even just save your life.

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