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Saddleback Caterpillar

Summary: The Saddleback caterpillar is not just a very colorful creature that feeds on your plants and trees, Saddleback caterpillars can actually be harmful to humans.

Saddleback caterpillars shoot poison through their hairs in self defense. They have stinging horns on each end of their bodies, but the rest of their bodies also have groups of smaller stingers. These stingers are hollow and are connected to poison sacs that fill the stingers with poison on contact, causing them to be painful little pests that should be avoided.

The saddleback caterpillar is unique in appearance. These slug caterpillars appear to have two heads, one on each end, and an eye in the


center of their dark purple-brown backs. The eye consists of a large dark purple-brown oval with a thin white border in a block of green. The green rectangle gives the illusion of a saddle blanket, giving them the name “saddleback”.

The saddleback caterpillar feeds off of trees and shrubs across Eastern North America. Some common trees that they like to feed from are dogwood, elm, maple, and oak, as well as fruit baring trees like apple and citrus trees. They are solitary, like most caterpillars. Most likely the caterpillars are so far dispersed that the damage caused would be minimal. They are not picky eaters and do not have a particular plant on which they prefer to feed. Since the damage is so wide spread among many different varieties of trees and bushes, spraying pesticides is usually not efficient or helpful.

Saddleback caterpillar moths are not as commonly known as the caterpillars because they are not harmful to humans. In fact, few would even guess that the moths and the caterpillars are the same species because of their vastly different coloring. The moth is dark brown with only a little white coloring. This helps to protect them from predators in the exact opposite way as the caterpillars. The moths can easily camouflage themselves in a pile of leaves or up against the bark of a tree.

Saddleback caterpillars loudly proclaim that they are poisonous with their bright vivid coloring. Predators learn that caterpillars with this kind of pattern are harmful to them, and they avoid them. Saddleback caterpillars also try to baffle their enemies. Their "two heads" can cause confusion. Predators don’t know which end to attack.

Saddleback moth

The Saddleback caterpillar’s colorful patterns and unusual look might make them tempting to pick up and examine from a closer view, but their sting is similar in feeling and intensity to that of a bee or a wasp. Even though they are only about an inch long, the poison from their stingers can be painful to humans for several days. The pain from the sting might be accompanied by a rash and swelling and even sick feelings. These caterpillars are clearly a species to avoid, so never try to pick up one of these caterpillars or even to touch them. Even the slightest brush up against one or trying to flick one of these pests off of a leaf can sting you, causing intense pain.

Use an object such as a stick if you need to remove one of these caterpillars from a plant or from your body. Heavy leather gloves are another option, but use caution. Children may also be tempted to pick up this caterpillar and play with it, so warn them to stay away from all colorful fuzzy caterpillars (no matter how fun they might look) because it is difficult to tell which are poisonous and which are harmless.

If you are stung by a saddleback caterpillar, apply strips of scotch tape to the area, pulling it off carefully to remove stinging hairs. Washing the affected area can help to remove poison. To reduce swelling and numb the stinging sensations, apply an ice pack. A hydrocortisone cream can reduce pain and quicken healing. A baking soda and water paste can also help reduce pain.


09 Nov 2009, 14:40
im looking for a a green and fuzzy and poysions
20 Nov 2009, 20:33
My aunt got stung by a saddelback caterpillar
28 Aug 2010, 15:09
I was stung by one of these last night! It was under a holly leaf. I didn't evern see it as I put my hand in the area to remove a dead leaf--immediate pain! Felt like a knife cut all the way up & down 2 fingers & slightly on thumb.
Nobody here in S/W TN had ever seen it or heard of it--including 2 farmers & a physician of 40+ yrs! (I took it in plastic bag w/me. It was attached to bottom of leaf.)
Wasp stings are not this bad!! Benadryl & zantac prescribed by Dr.; baking soda/water paste helped trememdously w/pain.
27 Jul 2013, 12:11
I wonder if these catapillars are living only in USA? Coz I got stung by them as well, but I live in Russia!
17 Aug 2013, 19:21
just got stung by this saddleback caterpillar in fleetwood and I looked it up to find out what it hand was on fire like someone was stabbing it with a red hot poker and I didnt even see the damn critter until I showed my hubby where I got stung and saw this weird looking caterpillar and found it on the hand hurts and my stomach isnt feeling that great...I have never seen or heard of this creature before but will definitely watch out for them in the future...also it was very big so that it why I didnt see it right away.
28 Aug 2014, 15:02
I am a landscaper and have been stung by these several times. The pain is intense but doesn't usually last longer then a day (for me atleast). I never see them till after I am stung, but the pain is unique so I know right away what did it. they tend tohide under leaves of plants and seem to love llilies but I have never found anywhere that says they preferred them. IF you avoid it
31 Aug 2014, 00:05
One of these suckers got me today. I accidentally brushed it with my arm while I was watering another plant. It was on a hibiscus plant. The pain was so sharp at first, I thought I was bit by a spider. Then I looked at the hibiscus and it's leaves we're covered with these pretty little caterpillars. In a few seconds my elbow felt like it was on fire and started to swell. My wife sprayed me with benedryl and Made me take a Zyrtec. My chest got a little tight because I'm an asthmatic, but I'm ok. Pain decreased after an hour. Still smarts a little. Will definately wear long sleeves and gloves while working in my garden now. Even in the August heat!
07 Sep 2014, 18:29
sep 7 2014 - was weeding garden, got stung by this sucker!! wow, painful, burning, seemed nothing would stop it. have never seen/heard of these boogers before - had no idea how to treat - washed off with cold water - used dish soap - used alcohol, then peroxide - still burning! seemed like "spines" were still in - so scraped with fingernail up and down fingers - finally used pure vanilla flavoring - after a few hours pain went away. still tender, luckily no reaction (as yet) - hope it stays that way. will definitely watch out for this bad one.
Judy Stanley
10 Sep 2014, 10:28
I just found a saddleback cattapillar on my palm plant on my front porch. I'm FREAKED! If I found one, are there usually lots more?
Cathie Cline
12 Sep 2014, 12:07
I just got stung by 2 of these guys today - walked by one of my potted plants they were feasting on and BAM! I felt the pain immediately - and wow! After walking a few steps away - I had to go back and see what it was 'cause I knew it wasn't the plant. I found 2 of them. And 2 hours later I still feel surges of pain through my body. That could be because not 10 minutes before that, a hornet stung me! Love my yard :o)
15 Sep 2014, 10:32
Pulling dead leaves off my lace leaf maple and the back of my hand started stinging like crazy!! I barely brushed against this thing so I was very thankful I didn't grab the leaf he was on!! I immediately went in and washed my hands for several minutes - I had a mild encounter so it didn't last long. Fearing my yard I braved it and went back out the next day - thought I was looking everything over but after working out there for an hour saw one of these boogers on the edge of my weed bucket! Came close but was saved!! Have never seen these here in Chattanooga in the 30 years we've lived here.
Kathy Poole
21 Sep 2014, 11:11
I got nailed by this monster a couple of nights ago. It was on a Canna Lilly. Stung like crazy for an hour or gave the only relief. Immediately took Benadryl, then went back out to capture him in case I had a reaction. Have a small puncture wound where he stung me. Will definately be on the lookout for more of his friends.....
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