Tuesday, September 6, 2011


August 7, 2011

So I’m out there happily weeding in front of the house. I say happily because it rained yesterday and the ground was pliable. Not like a clay ROCK baking in the sun, which it usually is. Clay soil in the sun is just like molding clay in a kiln. It’s HARD. And since every day is 90 degrees and a million particles of humidity, breaking through sun-baked clay is not a whole lot of fun. But today it was. Until I encountered a new friend. Actually, this guy was definitely NOT a friend.

I’ve got one glove on and one glove off. If you’re weeding tricky small areas between plants you really need an unarmed hand. It requires the delicacy of fingers unencumbered. Oddly enough, that wasn’t the hand that got into trouble. So I’m weeding along and I suddenly feel a burning sensation on the back of my gloved hand. I figure - well, I’ve gotten pricked by ...whatever. Probably the Barberry shrub nearby. I ignore it and continue on. Then I get another prick. Only this time I think, “Ah, ok, it’s a bee. Kinda feels like a bee sting now that I've experienced it TWICE. Where is it coming from? I look under an iris leaf because that was the only thing nearby that could possibly have been the culprit.

Aha! What is THIS creature? It’s a very small caterpillar with many colors and hairs. Mmmmmm, this is not a good thing. I know most dangerous critters are very flamboyant and give you as much warning as possible. And he is definitely FLAMBOYANT. But HE was under a leaf. Flamboyancy hidden is NOT FAIR! So I tear off the leaf and put him in the bug jail (see another post long ago about the bug jail) and determine to look him up later. I figured he was one of kind and not around a lot.

I wondered how bad my reaction would be. I washed my hand with soap and water thoroughly and then wiped it with alcohol. And went back out to continue weeding. The sting (it was more like burning sensation, actually), lasted about an hour. I kept checking it periodically to make sure my skin wasn't falling off. Less skin reaction than a chigger or a mosquito bite, but hurt a LOT more. So I’m continuing the weeding in other areas and then go in back of the iris (the same iris where he had been hiding). And I’m hunkered down on all fours and my face is - well, in the weeds. And I suddenly feel another stinging sensation by my left eye. Only this time I recognized it right off the bat! Yes indeedy. And then I looked under another iris leaf and — well hello, there are TWO of those suckers hanging out there. Great. Before, I at least had on a glove to protect the back of my hand. This time - nothing. Just my face and the hairs.

I thought “YOU BUGGERS!” But I couldn’t kill them. They’re so beautiful. Truly. They are just amazingly unique. So I ripped off that part of the leaf and took it to the other side of the lawn and dumped it. At that point I took the time to go in and look him up on the wonderful, world wild web. Because he looked like he had a brown saddle on, I queried caterpillars with saddles and BINGO. There he was. A saddleback (aptly named, I’d say) caterpillar.

Sibine stimulea - oh yeah, he definitely stimulates the pain sensors in your skin, though he be very small. That paper clip is not a large one.

“Wikipedia: These caterpillars have a pair of fleshy "horns" at either end, and these, like much of the body, bear urticating hairs that secrete an irritating venom. Stings can be very painful. They can cause swelling, nausea, and leave a rash that can last for days. Individuals with sensitive skin are cautioned against coming into contact with them as the reaction can be more severe than the typical reaction.”

A couple of responders said take some scotch tape and put it over the wound and it will pluck off the little hairs. I did that by my eye (after wiping it off with alcohol too), and the pain didn’t last nearly as long. Live and learn. I then spent the next 30 minutes studying other centipedes and brown recluse spiders. These guys are definitely nasty, but nothing (from what I’ve studied) about the recluse. And I really don’t want to get bitten by one of them, and would have no hesitation whatsoever about killing one. They ain’t pretty like this guy.

A few days later I came upon the monster below. Now he was BIG - about 2 inches. And FAST. Fortunately I found him before he found me. You know, it's funny. I was talking to my uncle the other night and he said he saw a really interesting bug by his front door and thought of me! I was delighted! If my friends and family think of me every time they see a bug - well, there'll be a whole lot of thoughts coming my way. HA!

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