Saddleback Caterpillar

The spines on this colorful caterpillar deliver a potent sting.
saddleback_caterpillar_new

saddleback_caterpillar_new


If you see this critter, don't touch! Its many spines are capable of delivering a sting you won't soon forget. The saddleback caterpillar's hollow quills are connected to poison glands beneath its skin, and the pain and swelling from contact with them can rival or surpass that of a bee sting.

The saddleback caterpillar (Acharia stimulea) is the inch-long larval form of a fuzzy, dark brown moth. In this crawling stage, however, its coloration is vivid: in the center of its bright green "saddle" is a purplish-brown circle. The critter can be found in the eastern U.S., mostly on deciduous trees and shrubs as well as corn and grasses in midsummer to early fall.

If you have the misfortune of a too-close encounter with the saddleback, wash the area immediately with soap and water, and apply ice to help relieve pain. If any spines are still embedded in the skin, adhesive tape may be useful in removing them. The burning pain and discomfort can last for several hours. People with allergic reactions or who have a sensitivity to bee stings should contact their physician immediately.

Next Up

Walnut Caterpillar

In some southern states, this hairy critter is a hazard to pecan, walnut and hickory trees.

Flannel Moth Caterpillar

The one-inch-long flannel moth caterpillar is fluffy but definitely not friendly. Don't let this cute Einstein-like visage fool you!

Spiny Elm Caterpillar

The spiny elm caterpillar is the larval stage of the mourning cloak butterfly.

Io Moth Caterpillar

Don't let this caterpillar get under your skin. The larval stage of the io moth is capable of inflicting very painful stings.

Help! Caterpillars Are Eating My Plants

Pests are guests you don't want to invite to your garden table.

Beneficial Bug: The Hover Fly

Familiar garden predators like ladybugs and praying mantises often get all the credit for controlling bad bugs. Check out what this largely unsung backyard hero can do.

Gardening Terms You May or May Not Know

Test your green I.Q. with these garden terms.

Glossary of Gardening Terms

Whether you're just starting out or need a refresher, brush up on essential gardening terms with this easy glossary.

In the Zone: Understand Climate and Hardiness

Knowing the local climate is the first step in understanding hardiness and hardiness zones.

Extending the Gardening Season

Use these methods to stretch extra days and weeks out of your growing season.

1,000+ Photos

Browse beautiful photos of our favorite outdoor spaces: decks, patios, porches and more.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.