What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Caterpillar Photos
Hello,
I am an avid insect, bug and caterpillar photographer and I really enjoy your sight. I have a 13 month old son who also loves to help me with my pictures. He is fascinated with bugs and is really the reason I began photographing them. Well, I live in San Antonio Texas and have seen most everything but this caterpillar is a new one and I really hope that you can identify it. Unfortunately in our bug exploration, my son was stung by this critter leaving a nasty mark. It was swollena dn nasty for a few days but started getting better until this morning and it’s getting angry red again. I’m afraid it’s some spines trying to work their way out. The doctor said he was fine but I’d like to do some research myself. Any info you may have regarding this fuzzy little guy would be greatly appreciated. As you can see, this one is right next to the door handle of my front door so they are definitely a presence in and around our home so they have me a little worried. I never kill them but would love to know and warnings to assist in my relocation efforts. Thank you in advance for any info you may have. Respectfully,
DanCee Bowers
San Antonio, Texas

Hi DanCee,
We believe this is a Sycamore Tussock Moth Caterpillar, Halysidota harrisii. It matches images found on BugGuide, but there is no mention of it being a stinging caterpillar. We do not have time right now to research its reputation as a stinging caterpillar, but perhaps knowing its name will lead you to the information you desire.

Update: (11/03/2007) Regarding Sycamore Tussock Moth Caterpillar — stinging?
Hi Daniel and Lisa,
In the post you have on the Sycamore Tussock Moth caterpillar from 10/30, Ms. Bowers asks about the caterpillar stinging because it caused some irritation to her son. I’ve found this fairly informative page from Auburn University Entomology Department that gives some very good general information on how caterpillars sting and then lists both stinging and non-stinging caterpillars that can be found in Alabama. Obviously many of the ones cited can also be found elsewhere. Interestingly, the Sycamore Tussock is listed as one of the non-stinging ones. Here’s the webpage: http://www.ag.auburn.edu/enpl /bulletins/caterpillar/caterpillar.htm#the%20sycamore Best regards,
Stefanie Graves
Paducah, KY

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
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12 Responses to Sycamore Tussock Moth Caterpillar

  1. Jonnie says:

    I wouldn’t think that these guys sting. I pick them up whenever I see them on the table outside, and move them to a bush. Even the banded ones.
    They seem like harmless little pipe cleaners to me. :)

  2. Cedwards says:

    I can assure you that the Sycamore Tussock Caterpillar most definitely stings. I am sitting right now with a itchy rash on my neck that is as large as your hand. I felt something that I thought was a hair on my neck and reached up to remove it. When I touched it, it was this caterpillar. Of course, not knowing what it was, I grabbed and threw it on the floor. It stung me. That was five days ago. It also caused hay fever like symptoms of sneezing and runny nose. I have since found their cocoon in the sycamore tree.

    • bugman says:

      Thank you for supplying this information. Many creatures have utricating hairs that can cause a skin reaction, though in your case, the reaction sounds even more severe. We don’t normally link to wikipedia, but in the Utricating Hair posting has some helpful information. Perhaps there was an allergic reaction as well.

  3. Cedwards says:

    I live in Alabama.

  4. Betsy says:

    These guys are stingers!!!! I live in Southern New Jersey and am overrun with them!!

  5. Tmac says:

    I have 2 really big sycamore trees in my yard and these guys are all over the place. When I pick them up they curl into a ball. I’ve not been stung by one. Are they harmful to the trees? Do they or don’t they sting? I don’t kill them but now after reading that some people got stung by them it might be game on. I live in Pennsylvania.

    • bugman says:

      BugGuide which is generally good about informing about which caterpillars sting does not indicate that this is a stinging species. BugGuide also indicates: “Natural enemies control populations. Pesticides may be needed in some cases.” If you do not have an epidemic, it seems the use of pesticides would likely do more harm than good.

  6. mkat58 says:

    I had one of these critters fall from our sycamore tree onto my upper arm….I brushes it away when I felt the nettles. I was swollen and broken out for about 2 weeks…..even a few areas underneath my clothing. I am afraid to even walk under the tree now, as we are still seeing these caterpillars. Maybe I had an unusually bad reaction, but they do seem to have some sort of toxin.

  7. Catharine says:

    They don’t ‘bite’ or ‘sting’ in the traditional sense. When they feel threatened, they drop their hairs, which have a compound on them that can make you break out in hives. How do I know? I live in Alabama, I have a huge sycamore tree in my yard, we are overrun with these caterpillars, I have suffered the rash, and I have a Master’s degree in biology. So I’m sorry, but BugGuide is wrong.
    (One fell from the roof of my porch into the collar of my shirt. By the time I got it off, it had spread the hairs down the side of my neck and across my collarbone. It initially felt like needles, and then was angry and itchy for several more days.)

  8. Ashley says:

    I can tell you they sting. I have a documented series of pictures to show. A year has gone by and neither of my sting sites have healed 100%. Nasty creatures. Er visit with a shot and oral steroids following second sting. Third sting tonight.

  9. Irma says:

    One got on my neck 5 weeks ago. I’m still trying to get rid of the rash. I’ve tried several allery medications with no luck. Doctor prescribed a steroidal cream-but after a week of using the cream, the rash still exists. The itching has subsided somewhat but the welts are still on my neck. Not sure what to do next. I’m almost resigned to live with it.

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