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Old 06-10-2013, 07:18 PM   #1
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Default Spiny Elm Caterpillar

Larva of the Mourning Cloak Butterfly Nymphalis antiopa
Spiny Elm Caterpillar-lotsa-057.jpgSpiny Elm Caterpillar-lotsa-058.jpgSpiny Elm Caterpillar-lotsa-062.jpgSpiny Elm Caterpillar-lotsa-064.jpg
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Old 06-11-2013, 03:06 PM   #2
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ARe those some of the Ouch variety of caterpillars?
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Old 06-11-2013, 03:25 PM   #3
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ARe those some of the Ouch variety of caterpillars?
Though the Google results weren't very clear, apparently it is somewhat venomous, causing some pain and rashes where it touches the skin. After learning about the defenses of the Hickory Tussock caterpillar after I'd dealt with one, I always assume that spined/hairy caterpillars are on the no-touch list.
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Old 06-11-2013, 04:19 PM   #4
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I was at Mammoth Cave, Kentucky in April 2012. Mourning cloak caterpillars were everywhere. I had a troop of Boy Scouts handling them with zero injuries.

I have yet to find a butterfly caterpillar that can harm a human, as long as you are not eating a bunch of monarch caterpillars.
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Old 06-11-2013, 05:17 PM   #5
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It may be that it depends on how you handle them. I would assume that any venom is contained on the tips of the spikes so just letting them crawl on you wouldn't be a problem. One of the links I found did say that almost all venomous caterpillars are of moths with this one being an exception. Now I have to emphasize that none of the references to these cats being venomous are from academic sources, so that makes the designation suspect. With your first hand experience I'd venture that the references to their venom may all be just an old wive's tale. It may still be a good idea to exercise caution, though.
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Old 06-11-2013, 08:25 PM   #6
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After learning about the defenses of the Hickory Tussock caterpillar after I'd dealt with one, I always assume that spined/hairy caterpillars are on the no-touch list.
Ouch! I had zero experience with handling caterpillars until last year, because I don't know which are harmless, and which are the stinging ones. We apparently were in the middle of a migration of them. You couldn't be outside for more than a few minutes without having some crawling on you. Luckily, they were not the stinging type.

KC - that's good info. Thanks.
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Old 06-12-2013, 01:26 AM   #7
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Mourning cloaks are part of the true brushfoots (subfamily Nymphalinae). Off the top of my head, I'd say all the caterpillars in that subfamily have spiky caterpillars. The spikes have all been soft and harmless in my experience.

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Now I have to emphasize that none of the references to these cats being venomous are from academic sources, so that makes the designation suspect.
I went through my academic sources (my butterfly books collection). I found one reference to a ventral gland on the first segment where the caterpillar can release a chemical defense. So, if you are afraid of swallowtail caterpillars and their scary osmeteriums, I guess you can add mourning cloaks to your list.

Like I said before, I picked up lots of mourning cloaks. If they had some chemical defense they were unleashing, it did not bother me or my scouts.

I raise a lot of polyphemus moth caterpillars. They have a few defenses that are harmless to us but can be effective against predators. First, they click their mandibles together. Then they throw up their last meal. Finally, they will force a liquid through their skin so your hand becomes wet. Fortunately, you have to really tick them off before they start emitting bodily fluids.
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Old 06-12-2013, 02:19 AM   #8
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Malachite is another true brushfoot with even nastier looking spikes but they are harmless.

Malachite Butterfly, Siproeta stelenes
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Old 06-12-2013, 05:51 AM   #9
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Malachite is another true brushfoot with even nastier looking spikes but they are harmless.

Malachite Butterfly, Siproeta stelenes
What a beauty! I guess spikes on butterfly cats are another example of protective mimicry. The more you know....
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