Don’t Touch the Caterpillar!

When I was a child, a favorite summer pastime was finding caterpillars.  Once found, I would place it in a jar with some sticks and leaves, screw the lid on tight, poke holes in the lid (Of course it needed air!), and wait.  I was waiting for it to spin a cocoon, incubate, and emerge a beautiful butterfly.  Not surprisingly, it never got past the cocoon stage; likely due to the unfavorable environment in which it was placed.  Yet, I continued to try.  I don’t know if that is an example of hope springing eternal or the definition of insanity:  trying something repeatedly and expecting different results!  I was sharing this story with my 18-year-old daughter who replied, “Mom, everyone knows you aren’t supposed to touch caterpillars because they could be poisonous!  That is nature’s way of keeping the caterpillars from being eaten by the birds.”  Oops!  I missed that particular life lesson…

I have just learned about a type of caterpillar that lives in my area:  the Oak Processionary Moth Caterpillar.  This caterpillar may be hazardous one’s health and should be avoided!  The Oak Processionary Moth caterpillar has toxins on its hair and simply being in the vicinity of this caterpillar and inhaling can be problematic, especially for those with asthma.  (I guess if you can wander around without breathing, it’s all good!)  Touching the hairs of this caterpillar may irritate the eyes, lungs, or skin and in some cases, will cause a severe allergic reaction!  It sounds like the best outcome if one comes in contact with the Oak Processionary Moth caterpillar is a rash…which could spread over the entire body.

Holzgerlingen, Germany

Forest Path

It lives in oak trees so we are to avoid playing, picnicking, or even walking underneath oak trees!  It is called “Processionary” because often, but not always, a group of them moves in a long line – head to tail – as if in a “procession.”

Holzgerlingehn cemetery pat

Cemetery Path

As I was walking my dog this morning along our usual route, which is tree-lined, I found myself continually looking up to see if I was standing beneath an oak tree!  Then I began to wonder if the reason our walking path has been less populated in the past week is because the locals, who presumably all know about this caterpillar, are avoiding it.  Paranoia has set in!

All of this has caused me to think about the local children and how they won’t have the childhood experience of catching caterpillars and observing them going through the various life cycles, hopefully to emerge as a beautiful butterfly.  I suppose there’s a chance they will grow up to be well-rounded individuals anyway! 🙂

I feel compelled to ask you, dear readers.  Did any of you, as children, put a caterpillar in a jar waiting and hoping for it to emerge a butterfly?


4 thoughts on “Don’t Touch the Caterpillar!

  1. foodessen

    I have to say I did not put a caterpillar in a jar 😦 But I have heard of the dangerous one you mentioned above. I didn’t know it’s name though, thanks for sharing that. You’ve probably heard the danger of ticks here too, just thought I’d mention that as far as I know most people get vaccinated. I think that if you spend a lot of time walking in the woods and such it’s probably not a bad idea.

    1. terrimoore65 Post author

      Clearly you were far more humane! 😉 Thanks for the reminder about ticks; we were warned nearly from the time we stepped off the plane! My family teases me about my hat, long sleeves & long pants when I work in the garden but I’d just as soon minimize the chance of getting a tick. 😛 I asked the doctor about a vaccination and she advised against it, as did the vet for my dog! I am thankful that my dog is white because the ticks are easy to see on his coat.

  2. Pat Sullivan

    You bet I put caterpillars in very well-appointed jars for their cocooning pleasure, but they never cooperated. The closest I came to memorable cocoon experience was a tour of the silkworm factory in Japan. Vats of cocoons being cleaned.

    1. terrimoore65 Post author

      Glad to hear it! Outside of my family, I was beginning to think I was the only one… 😉 A tour of the silkworm factory in Japan would be memorable!


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