The other day I was walking through the garden, minding my own darn business, when all of a sudden I was struck with a pain in my leg. It felt like dozens of shards of glass had just entered my thigh! It shot through my body so quickly, I hardly knew what hit me. Confused, and holding my now throbbing leg, I looked around to see if I could figure out what the heck had just happened!
And then, I spotted it. A bright little caterpillar, silently crawling up a leaf stalk I’d just walked past. I must have brushed up against it, I thought. Upon a closer examination, my suspicions were confirmed as I gawked at all of the tiny piercing spikes jutting out from every appendage on it’s body.
That was one mean looking caterpillar!
I was quickly reminded of the pain, and began hopping around the yard, begging for one more plantain leaf to be growing somewhere! I found a small one near the pine trees, and grabbed it up to make a poultice for the sting.
As I sat at my computer desk with the wad of chewed up plantain on my throbbing thigh, I hopped online to see what I could find out about that spiky little caterpillar I’d just had the misfortune of touching. It was a Saddleback Caterpillar, something I’d never in my life seen or heard of before then.
Once the pain had subsided, I went back outside to collect the creature in a small jar. Then I called the kids over to examine it from inside it’s prison, and warned them not to touch one if they ever came upon another. I showed them the swollen rash on my leg, and explained how painful it was.
I was glad it was myself who was stung this time, and not one of the kiddos. Man, I’m starting to get a little paranoid in the garden! I’m wearing gloves at all times from now on for sure, ’cause I’ve learned the hard way that it isn’t just bees I need to be watching out for!
Update: Aug. 21, 2016
Today I removed nine saddleback caterpillars from our Montmorency cherry tree. Supposedly they won’t do significant damage to garden plants or trees, but they sure have eaten their fair share of cherry tree leaves. I’ve never seen them in numbers like this… really I’ve only discovered single saddlebacks here and there around our property. And I’ve never seen them in a tree, only on weeds. I thought it fascinating to find so many of these caterpillars in one place. Hopefully I got them all so the kids don’t have a bad encounter like I did back when I originally posted this article five years ago!
Have you ever been stung by a Saddleback Caterpillar?