23 October 2008

Fall is Flannel Time

I've been pretty excitedly waiting for our 3 barbados cherry shrubs to bloom, ever since I saw them beginning to bud. Their flowers a quite nice, with a sweet scent and bright red cherry to follow.

I rushed over yesterday evening to see if the flowers had begun to open, to find this fantastic caterpillar hiding under one of the leaves. This, my friends (ahem, to quote John McCain), is not to be touched, brushed against or manhandled in any way or another.



So far as I can tell, it's a flannel moth caterpillar (either Megalopyge opercularis or Megalopyge crispatus). I believe we call them "asps" in Tejas. Apparently, it's one of the most toxic caterpillars in the U.S., and if I were to have accidently touched it, I may have experienced:
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
All fear aside, check out this punk's mohawk!



The caterpillar is buried down in all that downy fuzz somewhere. The hairs themselves aren't poisonous, by the way. They are concealing the toxin-laden spines spiking out from the caterpillar's body. This will turn into a pretty fuzzy moth.

Anyway, my barbados cherries still aren't blooming, but they are very close (see photos of the buds about to burst open). Our cherries are still very small, just planted last year, but I hope to shear it into a topiary some day, much like Philip has done over at East-Side-Patch. In the photo below, his sculpted barbados cherry, also known as "acerola," is just left of the nice red chair.


11 comments:

Jamie and Randy said...

It's amazing something that makes such a pretty moth could make you feel so bad.-Randy

Bonnie said...

That is crazy looking. I thought at first that was the cocoon. I would have had no idea what I was looking at.

Diana said...

But you so wanna touch it, don't you? I found one on the driveway last year and wanted to touch it but wisely didn't. I moved it into the grass using some big leaves.

Mary Beth said...

That is a catepillar? I would have never realized it.

Lori said...

Wow, that caterpillar looks like a very tiny guinea pig. I definitely would have touched it, so thanks for the warning. ;)

Lancashire rose said...

Wow! Thanks for posting the warning. I have heard of the asp but had no idea what it looked like. Someone once told me that they can drop out of the trees onto you.

Rachel @ in bloom said...

I stepped on one of those things as a kid. Man! That was some serious pain. I don't remember swelling of the lymph nodes, but I remember thinking my foot was on fire.

Annie in Austin said...

Pam in SC showed a similar caterpillar a while ago, too, Lee. I don't think it would have tempted me to touch it, because the Divas of the Dirt had warned me about the Asps years ago, but it would be easy to bump one accidentally, wouldn't it?

Enjoy the Barbados cherry blossoms!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

stephanie said...

were you talking about my asp experience of childhood???

Susannah said...

I remember my brother touching one of those when we were little, I think he was climbing a tree and put his hand on it accidentally. It was awful. It would be tempting to pet one if you didn't know better!

Muddy Mary said...

Oh great, even the asps look better in Austin. Ours in Houston are mottled grey.