One thing I didn’t consider before becoming an Associate Certified Entomologist was the number identification requests I would receive. Several times a week, I’ll get random texts from friends and family asking for the name of a particular arthropod. Usually, the photos are of poor quality, often too blurry or grainy to make anything more than a vague identification. This week, however, my mother treated me to a pretty good photo.
This Saddleback Caterpillar (Acharia stimulea) was found on my mom’s lawn furniture in the Metro D.C. area.
Mostly found on the underside of leaves, these “wanna-be porcupines” can dish out quite an unpleasant surprise to the unsuspecting gardener, as those nasty looking spines are venomous.
These things look like a cross between a Samurai warrior, Yorkshire Terrier, and a pinata, with a beautiful lime green, white and brown pattern.
This picture started an hour long session with my son, viewing different types of stinging caterpillars and their unbelievably beautiful markings. Many of these caterpillars don’t even look real.
As for the venom, Saddleback Caterpillars rank as the second most dangerous lepidopteran, with only the larvae from the Megalopygidae family being of greater medical concern.
In short, these guys can be bad news, so I’m happy my mom didn’t learn about these things the hard way!