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Buckmoth sting - 10 minutes later - Hemileuca maia

Buckmoth sting - 10 minutes later - Hemileuca maia
New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana, USA
April 6, 2009
Size: ~1.5"
Out of consideration for my dogs and my elderly neighbors (our houses are only about 4 feet apart on either side) I had my massive live oak sprayed on 2 April, to eliminate the thousands of H. maia caterpillars. A week later, one of my dogs started acting very oddly and twitching and rolling around on the floor. His behavior kind of made sense if he had been stung, but I really didn't think that a caterpillar that had been dead for almost a week would still sting that severely. I had some vague idea that the proteins in venom would break down fairly rapidly as the caterpillar decomposed. I was very worried that Ross (dog) was having a reaction to the pesticide, though that also seemed unlikely.

To decipher whether my dog was severely ill or just suffering from a sting, I went out and grabbed a dead caterpillar (pictured) and - somewhat overenthusiastically - pressed it to the back of my hand. The answer? Hell yes a dead caterpillar can still sting. This was one of the most severe buckmoth stings I've had (out of dozens). Three weeks later there are still faint speckles on my hand where the barbs punctured my skin!

Images of this individual: tag all
Buckmoth sting - 10 minutes later - Hemileuca maia Buckmoth sting - 1 hour later - Hemileuca maia Buckmoth sting - 1 week later - Hemileuca maia

Other thoughts
One of the troublesome symptoms that my dog displayed was erratic twitching of his leg muscles (only in one leg). It felt like it might have been involuntary, and I wasn't aware of any neurological effect from buckmoth stings(consultation with Dr. Carlson confirmed this), so I found it particularly worrisome.

I was trying to hold still for this photo, and I definitely felt some small spasms in my pinkie, middle finger, and in the palm of my hand! I probably would have noticed it in other circumstances, but it was definitely there. The spasming went away within a few minutes. I now think that my dog's leg was more of an involuntary urge to deal with the discomfort, and not venom-induced muscle spasms, but there definitely was some neurological involvement in my case.

Just a thought...
Any chance that residual pesticide on the caterpillar could have worsened the effects?

Does that pesticide work through ingestion or absorbtion?

On a side note, I have lived in Kenner for over 15 years and have only seen one Buck Moth caterpillar (no adults) and it was during one of my few trips into New Orleans... I would love to see an adult.

Pretty sure it was a contact pesticide, and Dr. Carlson says it is pretty much out of the question that the spray residue could have exacerbated the sting.

If you want to see an adult buckmoth, I'll shoot you an email in November. It is pretty spectacular when they emerge!

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