The saddleback caterpillar, (Acharia Stimulea – Clemens) is a ‘furry’ looking brown creature with vibrant lime green coloring and some white trim on its back and sides, and a brown oval in the center of their body. The green coloring resembles a saddle blanket on a horse and the brown spot resembles a saddle – hence the name. These chubby little caterpillars grow to around an inch in length, and have fleshy prongs on the front and back with poisonous hairs on them. They also have stinging organs in their sides. These crawly little pests grow up to become slug moths. The one thing that you must know about the saddleback is that they are dangerous.
While these pests are relatively harmless to plants – only causing minor damage; they are a medically significant pest to people. These beautifully colored bugs are equipped with hemolytic venom that can cause a variety of symptoms ranging from mild to severe. The venom is located in little hairs or spines that are strong and break off inside the skin of its target. The ‘sting’ causes an intense burning and can cause the hair in the affected area to stand on end. Also, redness, swelling, and blistering appear and you can ‘perspire’ around the site. This can last up to 5 hours. The venom also causes a disruption in your skins ability to heal itself. Another danger is when the spines become airborne and can be inhaled or prick the eyes or enter the nasal cavity causing great discomfort. Spines can become embedded in wood, plastic or clothing and cause a ‘sting’ later on as well. The venom is so strong that you can even be ‘stung’ after the caterpillar has died!
A major medical event can occur and the most common symptoms of contact with the saddleback caterpillar are:
Erucism – itchy, bumpy, blistery rash
Acute urticaria – hives, skin welts
Rupture of erythrocytes – red blood cells*
*In severe cases only.
These pesky little creatures are not attracted to any one plant in particular but can be found in ornamental and backyard gardens. They do, however, have a fondness for palms – especially crop palms. This makes plant handlers at high risk of contact. If you are ‘stung’ by one of these caterpillars the first thing you should do is remove the spines. The longer they are embedded the more venom they will pump into you. Then monitor for other signs and symptoms and call your doctor to report the sting. The best way to avoid the sting of the saddleback, though, is to avoid contact with them altogether.
DEET is not effective in controlling these insects, so a bug spray will not help you at all. Be sure to wear long sleeved shirts, pants, and gloves when gardening, harvesting coconuts, or handling plants. Those that work in agriculture should be particularly careful of these pests. When dealing with caterpillars it is essential for treatment that you have proper identification. There are so many varieties and species that it is often difficult for the untrained person to know exactly which caterpillar they are battling, and some species have developed a resistance to certain pesticides. These difficult to prevent insects usually require the help of an expert like McCall Service in order to control or eliminate. McCall has been working hard eliminating pests for over 80 years and offers the latest most Eco-friendly pest control solutions. Call today for the experts at McCall to identify your caterpillar and eliminate them from your environment.