a friend who recently moved to Tennessee sent me this photo, of a type of “bug” in his garden. He wanted to know if I had any idea what it was; apparently he found several while harvesting some kale and picked it up- “BAD IDEA” he nearly screeched in his email. Apparently their spines are painfully poisonous. what is it? here is what I found.
The saddleback caterpillar (Acharia stimulea, formerly Sibine stimulea) looks like a colorful cross between a Chinese parade dragon and a Scottish terrier. It's the larva of the saddleback caterpillar moth. Although it may look cute enough to pet, watch out — its spikes, called "urticating hairs," are full of venom and deliver a painful sting.
Among all of the insects gardeners come across, the saddleback caterpillar with its horned head and fuzzy body is one of the strangest. While this insect might look cute as far as bug larvae go, it is far from helpless. If accidentally touched, it gives a venomous sting that can cause a severe reaction depending on the individual. Therefore, gardeners who live in the region where these insects occur need to take proper steps to prevent contact.
Where Do Saddleback Caterpillars Live?
This insect has a wide range along the eastern half of the United States due to hardy nature of the adults. Specimens have been found as far north as New York and as far south as Florida. Even the eastern half of Texas is included in the range. However, this species is mainly found in the southeastern United States, particularly in Alabama, Georgia, and "you guessed it" Tennessee. The larvae tend to emerge from the middle of summer until early fall.
"Ok Joshua, wear gloves when in your garden....
and don't pick it up with a "wow, how cool is the little guy curiosity."