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According to a Louisiana State University press release Louisiana is home to one of the most dangerous caterpillars in the United States. The reddish brown Saddleback Caterpillar is about one inch long and, at first glance, it looks like it has two heads. Its light green midsection is topped with a reddish brown oval “saddle”.

Contact with the Saddleback Caterpillar can result in extremely painful and irritating stings.  The spines of this caterpillar are pointed, strong, and hollow. They can become deeply embeded in the skin and then break off. Severe symptoms that occur after being stung by a Saddleback Caterpillar include migraines, gastrointestinal symptoms, asthma complications, and anaphylactic shock. The contact area will usually turn red, accompanied by an intense burning sensation and blistering can occur. Symptoms can last for several hours and leave red blotches on the skin.

 According to LSU entomologist Tim Schowalter the spine tips can be removed by putting adhesive tape over the stung area. Use fresh tape each time so you don't move the caterpillar spines to new areas and then thoroughly wash the area with soap and water to remove the venom. He also stated an ice pack and a baking soda poultice can be used to reduce the pain and swelling from the caterpillar stings. Additionally, oral or topical antihistamines might help to relieve some of the itching and burning from caterpillar stings.

Saddleback Caterpillars feed on a wide variety of landscape plants including Chestnut, Crape Myrtle, Dogwood,  Elm, Hackberry, Holly, Hydrangea, Maple, Oak, Palm, Pecan, Spicebush, Viburnum, and  Wisteria. Although Saddleback Caterpillars cause minimal damage to landscape plants spraying of trees or shrubs might be considered where populations are expected to be high. Bacillus thuringiensis and several insecticides can be sprayed to control Saddleback Caterpillars.

Saddleback caterpillar. Photo: John A. Weidhass, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University,

Saddleback Caterpillar Picture

Saddleback caterpillar. Photo: William A. Carothers, USDA Forest Service,

Saddleback caterpillar. Photo: Robert L. Anderson, USDA Forest Service,

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