The Deadliest Catch…terpillar?

As I’ve mentioned before, my parents live about 20 minutes out of town in the “country”. They have seventy acres of land split between them and three other families.

Despite the way it sounds, no, it’s not a compound. So don’t go reporting them to the FBI. Anyway, if you did, Mom and ’em could take ’em.

Not that it’s a compound.

But if it were, it would make a good one, because it is surrounded by a mountain on one side and a creek on the other three sides.

So, due to that, there is plenty of wildlife to go around. And with wildlife, of course, comes dangerous wildlife.

Sure, they’ve found snakes of all sizes, but not as often as you’d think. In fact, the most surprisingly poisonous creatures to be found have been. . . caterpillars.

Who knew? I always assumed that caterpillars were innocent little creatures. I had no idea that they could be so cruel and vindictive.

A couple of years ago, I got one of those hair-raising calls from my Dad: Your Mom’s in the ER, she’s been bit by something, nobody can figure out what, but she says that the pain is a “10” on a 1-10 scale, and no pain medicines are relieving it.

Mom had been picking up piles of brush that afternoon, and whatever stung or bit her did it on the inside of her arm, so it was assumed that it was in a pile of brush pressed up against her arm. Of course, they were thinking snake, but it didn’t look like any snake bite they’d seen before – it was a double row of red, raised dots, something akin to this:
Mom had to stay in the hospital overnight, and the doctors could never determine what stung her. However, one of her property-sharing neighbors did some research and they were able to determine without a doubt that it was the very unique sting of this creature:The most poisonous caterpillar in the world, a Puss Caterpillar. According to www.bugsinthenews.com,

The larval stage of this insect is a small, wooly, pussycat-appearing caterpillar covered with rows of long, venomous spines embedded in a coat of soft, cuddly hairs. The toxin usually, but not always, produces an immediate onset of excruciating, unrelenting pain, radiating to the lymph nodes in the armpit or groin, and then to the chest. Though rarely a true medical emergency, these symptoms have the feel of a serious, life-threatening event. It is common for victims to visit emergency rooms.

The underside of the caterpillar looks like this:
And besides his tentacles under his fur, he stings with his toes, which is apparently what got Mom and left the double-dotted row of stings.

It took Mom quite a while to completely recover from the sting, and has since kept her eyes out for furry, sweet looking caterpillars.

Ali and I have spent several mornings in the past couple of weeks riding around in Mom’s new golf cart (purchased due to her latest injury, which happens to be only the second time I ever remember my Mom going to the ER) and picking blackberries, blueberries, (one) rasberry, and vegetables on the compound property.

On one of the jaunts, I was deep into a blackberry bush when my gloved hand brushed up against a HUGE and fascinating caterpillar. He was black with white spots, and then he had branch-like tentacles coming off of him, and in between those, he had starburst-like tentacles.I had a rubber glove on to minimize the blackberry thorn injuries, so I pulled him off along with his branch to show him to Mom. We stuck him in a bowl, took him inside, and Googled him.

And guess what?

He is the SECOND most poisonous caterpillar in the world. Right behind the aforementioned Puss Caterpillar. . .

And you wanna know how freaky-homeschool-Mom my Mom really is? She kept him, made him a little home of blackberry branches, is feeding him bugs and misting him with water in hopes that he will spin himself into this:
Ew. I sure hope he doesn’t have the side effect of making Mom’s arms as hairy as whoever is holding THAT specimen.

So, to recap, I have now effectively ensured that none of you will ever want to visit my parents.

Oops. Sorry, Mom and Dad.