Subject: Caterpillar poisened little girl. URGENT HELP PLEASE!!
Geographic location of the bug: Manguzi, Kwa Zulu Natak, South Africa
Time: 05:49 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: one of the little children in our village has made contact with this hairy large and colourful caterpillar. She’s in ICU at a local rural clinic but we urgently need to identify and then get the correct treatment. I can only email the picture, not that computer clever to attach it here but I’ll try, Can you please send me an email address and i’ll send it on?
How you want your letter signed: Debbie
This is a Lappet Moth Caterpillar in the family Lasiocampidae, and we verified that observation on iSpot. We have another posting on our site of this Lappet Moth Caterpillar and we provided a link to iSpot that identified it as the Toothed Cream Spot Eggar, Catalebeda cuneilinea, but we were never able to find additional images to support that identification. The original link we provided is now broken, and we still cannot verify that species identity. We located a Zoological Bulletin article that discusses urticating or stinging hairs in a Spanish Lappet Moth species, Streblote panda, and if that characteristic is present in one member of the family, it may be shared by other family members. That article states: “The caterpillar of S. panda is known for its urticating properties. The urticating apparatus has not been studied in detail so far; Calvo & Molina (2008) simply mention that urticating retractable organs develop beginning from the second instar and appear as mere cuticle differentia- tions in the first instar. In the present study, details of the morphological structures responsible for the urticating properties are provided for the first time.” Krishna Mohan Photography has this to say about a different Lappet Moth caterpillar species: “Almost all stages these caterpillar are poisonous to human beings. Their hair results in urticarial rashes. When your skin brushes against these caterpillars, the spines break off, releasing an irritating fluid that produces an immediate stinging, burning sensation. The numbness and swelling that follow may extend to your whole arm or leg in severe cases. Red blotches may persist for a couple of days, accompanied by a weeping rash. Associated lymph nodes may swell and be tender for 12 to 24 hours. Systemic reactions may include nausea and vomiting.If one affects you, treat the symptoms. To remove any spines still in the skin, gently stick a piece of adhesive tape to the site and then pull it away. Applying cold compresses can lessen the pain and swelling. Pain medications and topical corticosteroid creams may help. If the symptoms include systemic reactions consult medical help.” Though it is a different species, that information might help with your case. We have another Lappet Moth Caterpillar in our archives and we linked to this iSpot posting that states: ” Urticating moth caterpillar causing skin and respiratory problems in cattle” and “Causes skin and respiratory illness in cattle, one of the reasons for burning the heathland. Urticating setae identified by specialist.” We hope that information helps and that the “poisoned” girl soon recovers.
I cannot thank you enough for your prompt, informative and so very reassuring reply. We got it through to the doctors just in time.
Things work very differently here in rural Africa and the “doctors” were talking about amputating one leg below the knee! It was shocking and frightening, but with your assistance she’s safely making a slow recovery – without any surgery.
Believe me, it was a desperate situation and without any knowledge we were supposed to rely on their opinion. Little Palilisa has got a lot to thank you for. Really.
Many many thanks again. You made a HUGE difference!
Thanks so much for writing back with your progress report. Sitting in our office in front of the computer, we seriously doubt we ever have much impact in the world, especially since our editorial staff hasn’t any true qualifications in the world of entomology or medicine. We are humbled that we had a positive impact on Palilisa’s life.