This Week’s Creature Feature ... Monster Bugs in Your Back Yard
Be careful where you step, especially around wooded areas and oaks.
My dog learned that lesson in her own backyard. She flipped up what resembled a miniature porcupine. Caterpillars that use their branching spines to fend off predators are not play toys for pets.
The buck moth caterpillar lives in oak forests from Florida to Maine. Buck moth also favor willows and wild cherry trees.
The caterpillars are covered in hollow spines attached to a poison sac. They have no control over stinging. When touched in any way, the venom is automatically ejected — and injected. The poison causes symptoms ranging from itching and burning to nausea.
Buck moth caterpillars are often found in quantity, according to Shannon Steele, naturalist at Battle Creek Cypress Swamp Nature Center.
“They are communal caterpillars with painful bristles,” Steele explained. “They can cause small hemorrhages, though reaction differs from person to person.”