17 Different Types of Poisonous Caterpillars

Different Types of Poisonous Caterpillars
Photo by Walter del Aguila

Various types of poisonous caterpillars come in diverse forms; Some can have hairy bodies, terrifying or menacing colors, or the ability to blend in with their surroundings.

Caterpillars are fascinating creatures for a variety of reasons. You can find these magnificent little creatures in various shapes, sizes, and colors; not all of them develop into butterflies. A handful of them even has poisonous coatings on them.

They have a wiggly, entertaining, and intriguing appearance, and each one has its own unique story to tell.

With so much to learn and discover about caterpillars, let’s talk about the types of poisonous caterpillars you can find worldwide.

How to Identify Types of Poisonous Caterpillars?

To begin, let’s get one thing straight: poison and venom are not the same things. Even though people sometimes use both of these phrases interchangeably, they refer to different concepts. The delivery method is what sets them apart from one another.

Toxins can enter the body through the skin, the mouth, or the nose. Poison is one type of toxin. The toxin delivered to the body via injection is known as venom. The sting of a bee, a snake, or a spider bite is all examples of venom injections.

Even though some types of poisonous caterpillars have toxic properties, this does not mean they are inherently harmful and do not sting as bees or wasps do.

The presence of urticating hairs is the most important quality to search for, and They can have the appearance of barbs or spikes throughout a caterpillar’s worm-like body.

There may be urticating hairs running along the spine of various types of poisonous caterpillars.

These very fine hairs have the potential to become embedded in your skin and then fall off, which will result in irritation and discomfort.

It is important to keep in mind that not everyone will have an extreme reaction. However, several types of poisonous caterpillars native to South America have a history of being linked to fatalities.

The presence of toxins in certain caterpillars serves as a form of self-defense against potential enemies. Be sure of what you’re getting your hands on if you decide to pet one of these cute little bugs.

Different Types of Poisonous Caterpillars

1. Stinging Rose Caterpillar

The length of this larva (Parasa indetermina) is around one-quarter of an inch (2.5 centimeters). Its hues are bright, with stripes of blue, orange, and white over its body.

The dorsal surface has six huge pairs of tubercles, each covered with a hollow set of spines. In addition, These spines have detachable tips, and those tips carry the poison.

The following states cover their distribution: New York, Florida, Missouri, and Texas. Due to the complexity of this species, please resist the urge to handle any of them; nevertheless, you are welcome to take as many pictures of these types of poisonous caterpillars as you like at a distance so you won’t get hurt.

2. Spiny Elm Caterpillar

The rear of the spiny elm caterpillar (Nymphalis antiopa) is covered with a row of bright red or sometimes orange spots. Its legs are a bright red color, and it frequently has clusters of white freckles all over its body.

These types of poisonous caterpillars have the potential to reach lengths of up to five meters (two inches) in length.

These caterpillars scuttle around temperate regions of North America, central areas of Mexico, and Eurasia.

Additionally, some individuals have been found in the Gulf States and on the Florida peninsula. The caterpillar’s body consists of what appear to be pointed spines of a dark color. These are encircled by more minute white bristles, which act as storage for its poison.

3. White Flannel Moth Caterpillar

These caterpillars (Norape ovina) do not aggressively assault people, but if you brush up against one, its stinging hairs, hidden amid its normal hairs, can stab into the skin and break off.

This behavior is typical of most caterpillars. The reactions can vary depending on the type of caterpillar as well as the individual’s level of sensitivity.

After coming into touch with the substance, you may experience stinging, itching, burning, rash, lesions, swelling, fever, and nausea.

There are eleven different species of flannel moth caterpillars, and most prefer to make their homes in wooded areas across North America.

Most flannel moths generally have a thick coat of long, golden hairs, making them look as fluffy as a cat. Don’t let yourself get duped. The hair is where these bugs store the venom, which causes stinging.

4. Buck Moth Caterpillar

The caterpillars of the buck moth (Hemileuca maia) are often rather big and dark in color. They can reach a length of between 5 and 6 centimeters (two to 2.4 inches) in length.

These types of poisonous caterpillars have white spots scattered all over their bodies, and their heads are a bright red color. This species can be found as far east as East Texas, down to Florida, and as far north as Maine.

When they are young, caterpillars of the buck moth have a habit of clustering on branches and moving one behind another.

The oak tree is the host tree of choice for the buck moth caterpillar, but it also inhabits willow trees, wild cherry trees, and rose bushes.

Venom glands are associated with the spines seen on this caterpillar. Getting stung causes acute pain, which may also come with itching, swelling, and redness. After contact, welts on the skin may be evident anywhere from one to seven days later.

5. American Dagger Caterpillar

The caterpillar known as the American dagger (Acronicta Americana) did justice to its namesake. Its color can range from bright yellow to a more muted shade and can be white.

Because of its fluffy appearance, it is attractive to pet, but there is a risk involved if you do so. The hairs stand up like bristles, and their length can reach more than an inch (2.5 centimeters).

If you come into contact with these types of poisonous caterpillars, you will develop a severe and blistering rash.

The stinging sensation, which may progress into a rash, is thought to be caused by toxins inside the hairs, but there have been no reports of major adverse reactions.

These types of poisonous caterpillars reside in woodlands, forests, and swampy bottomlands located all across the eastern portion of North America.

They are most comfortable in settings with a profusion of trees, shrubs, hedges, bushes, and other forms of vegetation.

6. Laurelcherry Smoky Moth Caterpillar

Larvae of the Laurelcherry Smoky Moth (Neoprocris floridana) attain a length of roughly one centimeter when completely mature (1.3 centimeters).

The dorsal regions of the body are colored white and black, and the lateral regions are tinted yellow. You can spot them in some areas of Alabama and the state of Florida.

The danger lies in the creature’s minute, short, and yellowish hair, which covers its entire body. Pain is one of the reactions that might occur due to its sting, followed by a rash that can cause blisters. This type of poisonous caterpillar can conceal its head with the help of a little hood it wears.

7. Smeared Dagger Moth Caterpillar

The larva of the Smeared Dagger Moth (Acronicta oblinita) is also sometimes referred to as the Smartweed Caterpillar. It is often black in color and has back lumps with tufts.

The caterpillar has vivid yellow markings in the shape of a V all over its body, which is another interesting trait.

You can find these caterpillars in the eastern part of North America, all the way south to Texas and Florida, and in the north, from Nova Scotia to British Columbia.

They may look like they won’t hurt you, but you shouldn’t pick them up. A stinging sensation, a burning sensation, itching, and sometimes even a rash are all symptoms that their hair might bring.

8. Bag-shelter Moth

The Bag-Shelter Moth (Ochrogaster Lunifer), like the majority of other types of poisonous caterpillars, possesses prickly hairs, which contribute to its poisonous nature.

They have brown heads with grey bodies covered with hair. One might frequently observe them walking in a parade formation. There have been reports of as many as 200 of them together.

The Bag-Shelter Moth is native to Australia, and they thrive in semi-arid forests and coastal vegetation over the whole continent.

Although they are most commonly a concern for horse breeders, they are nevertheless capable of causing quite a bit of disruption for other people. Consuming the caterpillar’s hair after shedding will make the horse experience excruciating discomfort.

9. Monarch Caterpillar

The Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is one of the most prevalent types of butterflies caterpillars. The Monarch caterpillar’s ability to consume the milkweed plant leaves is one of the characteristics that sets it apart from other butterflies and caterpillars.

The caterpillar absorbs the glycosides from the plant, stores them in its body, and then becomes poisonous. Particularly for the unfortunate bird that will end up eating it.

The milkweed plant is very important to monarch butterflies. If you are interested in seeing one, you should go to where their principal food supply is.

In most cases, this occurs in less developed agricultural fields and meadows, as well as in undistributed vegetation areas.

You might occasionally come upon these types of poisonous caterpillars in the ditches or on the highways. The ideal locations have pleasant springtime temperatures.

10. Giant Silkworm Moth Caterpillar

The enormous silkworm moth caterpillar (Lonomia obliqua), which you may find in southern Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentina, is considered one of the most deadly kinds of caterpillars. Its thorns contain a high concentration of poison known to be fatal.

These types of poisonous caterpillars are capable of causing hemorrhagic symptoms, some of which include fever, blurred vision, confusion, weakness, and loss of balance.

On the other hand, severe reactions typically take between 20 and 100 stings to manifest themselves.

When it has reached its full size, the caterpillar measures approximately two inches (five cm) in length. The color of its spikes can range from brown to green, and the size of those spikes can change. Deciduous woodlands and other forested places are their natural environment of choice.

11. Pine Processionary Caterpillar

The pine processionary caterpillar (Thaumetopoea pityocampa) resides in portions of the Middle East, southern Europe, and North Africa. Other locations include Hungary, Switzerland, and Paris.

They have a fuzzy appearance, and their color is orange-brown with bands of blue. Compared to other hairy caterpillar species, the clumps of hair covering this species have a more consistent length.

These particular species of pine caterpillars construct their homes out of silk, and they are around the size of a football.

They only go out of their nest at night to forage for food among the needles of pine trees and other conifer species. Winter and the beginning of spring are the times of the year when seeing them is most likely.

When it senses danger, the pine processionary caterpillar will eject dart-like exudates from its urticating hairs.

If these hairs come into touch with a human or an animal, it is possible for the skin, eyes, tongue, and bronchial tubes to suffer significant damage.

12. Hickory Tussock Caterpillar

The Hickory tussock (Lophocampa caryae) is a larva that resembles a moth and is white with black markings.

Older caterpillars can grow to a length of 1.7 inches (4.3 centimeters) and often have two black setae (hairs that are stiff and horn-like) at the front and back of their bodies.

The areas of Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, Maine, the Carolinas, Wisconsin, and Illinois, as well as southwest Texas and Mexico, are home to these types of poisonous caterpillars.

Venom is stored in the long black hairs found on the hickory tussock. If any of those hairs become embedded in your skin and then fall out, they may introduce a potentially dangerous chemical into your body, resulting in an allergic reaction.

There is no record of this one being responsible for a fatality. After contact with any of these, it is generally agreed upon that some people might experience slight skin flushing or a rash that is itchy and slightly painful.

13. Hag Moth Caterpillar

These types of poisonous caterpillars (Phobetron pithecium) are also called monkey slugs. It has a short, brown hairy covering, and some of the hairs have glands that secrete toxins.

It has nine pairs of fleshy appendages, none of which should be mistaken for its legs. Some of these appendages are quite lengthy and bent, but they serve no purpose in the animal’s locomotion. It has a length of approximately 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) when completely developed.

If you come into contact with the toxin that this caterpillar produces, you may experience a burning sensation, itching, redness, and inflammation.

They prefer plants that provide shade, such as trees and shrubs. They are prevalent in Mississippi, Florida, Arkansas, and Nebraska.

The poison activates upon contact with the substance, causing various reactions and symptoms. Burning, stinging, itching, redness, and inflammation could be among the symptoms.

Although allergic reactions, while they are not unheard of, do not occur very frequently.

14. Io Moth Caterpillar

The io moth caterpillar (Automeris io) is yet another fascinating species found in various locations, such as Maine, across southern Canada to the southeastern corner of Manitoba, the Dakotas, Nebraska, the Florida Keys, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, and Costa Rica.

In addition, The first stage of an io moth larva has a reddish-brown coloration with lighter lines. The lines on these types of poisonous caterpillars will eventually turn a more yellowish-brown color as it gets older.

An unpleasant experience may result from making contact with the spines of this one. The reaction is comparable to that of a painful bee sting.

In most cases, the io moth thrives in the southern region of Canada, all of the eastern United States, and even in eastern Mexico.

Their natural environment includes deciduous woodlands, shrubby areas with thorns, and even residential settings.

15. White Cedar Moth Caterpillar

The head of the white cedar moth caterpillar (Leptocneria reducta) is copper-colored and black in coloration. It has long bristles that are spiked, fuzzy hair, and a brown body with irregular yellow stripes.

However, The only part of Australia where you won’t locate this species is Tasmania. The sole source of nutrition for this caterpillar is the Cape Lilac Tree.

Humans may get skin irritations from the hairs, but horses have been observed to miscarry after coming into contact with them.

Even after these caterpillars shed their hairs, the stinging hairs of the caterpillars continue to maintain their toxic characteristics.

16. Saddleback Caterpillar

The saddleback caterpillar (Megalopyge opercularis) is a specimen that, in most people’s opinion, has a slightly eerie appearance. It has a saddle-shaped back that is green in color, a body that is purple-brown and is about an inch long (2.5 centimeters).

The venomous spines are on four major tubercles and some smaller tubercles that protrude from the sides of its body.

These types of poisonous caterpillars, like most other toxic caterpillars, are covered in small hairs that sting when touched and leave a rash on the skin of a person who comes into contact with them.

Be on the watch for this sprite if you happen to be traveling through the eastern states of the United States, particularly the states of Florida, New York, and Massachusetts.

However, There have been reports of sightings in western states like Texas, Indiana, and Kansas.

17. Puss Caterpillar

It’s not necessary to search any further than the puss caterpillar to find another immature bug that will blow your mind.

This caterpillar, often known as the woolly slug, is notorious for being the most lethal of its kind in the United States.

The majority of Texas, Maryland, and Missouri are home to this caterpillar with a bushy head. They commonly feed on sycamores, elms, and oaks.

Puss caterpillars can range in length from 0.4 to 3.6 centimeters (1.2 to 1.4 inches) (3 to 3.5 centimeters).

They have thick hair that ranges in color from tan to grayish-white. The puss caterpillar expels poison from the shorter spines on its body.

Pain, swelling, itching, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, fever, muscular cramps, and shock are some potential side effects of coming into contact with its deadly glands.

You should use cellophane tape to remove the spines from a puss caterpillar if you come into touch with these types of poisonous caterpillars.

It would be best if you did this as soon as possible. Also, don’t forget to contact your doctor as soon as possible.

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