Sunday, August 21, 2011

Kids and Caterpillars: Be Careful

Most of the kids who visit our cottage want to hunt and catch bugs. They love caterpillars because many are fuzzy and cuddly and easy to catch and keep around. You hate to ruin their fun but it’s important to be vigilant about which caterpillars they pick up as playmates.
Hickory Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Caterpillars, of course, turn into moths or butterflies. Some hairy caterpillars carry venom in their stiff hairs or “spines” as a means of defence. When they are touched, the hairs can break, releasing the venom. There are several or more of the stinging variety, including the hickory Tussock moth caterpillar found from Nova Scotia through Ontario.

In most cases, the venom causes stinging or burning and little else. Some people are more sensitive to the stings than others and might get a rash, or in severe cases, swelling and nausea.

Some hairy caterpillars have venom that is extremely dangerous but none of these are found in Canada.

Also, if you ever wondered why caterpillars are so slinky, it’s because a caterpillar has 2,000 muscles in its body. The human body has 700.

For more on venomous caterpillars try these sites:

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