Will Ontario’s 2014 Poisonous Caterpillar Return This Summer?

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The Hickory Tussock Moth Caterpillar as found on Prospect Street, Port Dover, Ontario

This Hickory Tussock Moth Caterpillar was found on Prospect Street, Port Dover, Ontario

Important safety tip: if you see a caterpillar that has hypodermic-like needles poking out from its body DON’T TOUCH.

That might seem like common sense but Summer 2014 had Ontarians reporting to emergency rooms and to family doctors with symptoms ranging from swelling and rashes to vomiting and intense pain. All this from a seemingly harmless caterpillar sting.

Nature has a way with defense mechanisms and the hickory tussock moth caterpillar is no exception. During mid to late Summer this caterpillar has one thing on its mind: time to cocoon. In order to accomplish that task, it needs to crawl around out in the open to discover the best places to begin its transformation. So it’s easy pickings if you’re a hungry bird. That explains the caterpillars needle like barbs and the poisonous toxin that they deliver.

Other signals to predators  that say “stay away” are black dots on the belly of the caterpillar .

If you see one of these critters the best way to handle them is to use a leaf or a stick to gently encourage the caterpillar to hop on board. That way you will remain safe when you transport them somewhere else- away from those areas that your family and pets enjoy. For the Silo, Jarrod Barker.

Music for caterpillar searching! Click me.

Music for caterpillar searching! Click me.

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