Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Caterpillar Onslaught

Caterpillar season is in high gear down here--we have gadjillions of stinging buck moth caterpillars. I didn't think there'd be too many buck moths this year, since we had a cold spell when they came out last year and most of them died. No such luck. It's been going on for weeks, and I cannot really deal anymore.
They come out of the massive live oaks, and they cover most of the city.

Even if you manage to avoid them on the ground, they'll succeed and fall from the trees to get you. I keep promising Vee no more stings, so I have to be really careful when I walk him, he's been foot chewing to survive.

Later in the summer, we get Io moth caterpillars, which sting too--worse in fact, more like wasps.
Though the Ios don't come out in droves, when they hatch I can often find 30 mini sized ones on a single plant. They like to camouflage themselves in hibiscus trees, so I end up grabbing them unintentionally when I garden. Stinging caterpillars are easily one of my least favorite things about living in New Orleans. I grew up lovin' on woolly bear and other tame caterpillars, so it just seems twisted and wrong that we have ones that hurt.
At least we do have the fluffy, innocuous woolly bear caterpillars of my youth. We get 'em in lots of snot like colors here, and they look sorta stingy, so most people leave them alone.
They also eat way more than their weight in my finest greenery--I've been picking them relentlessly from my mint and angel trumpet.


The dreaded fruitworm.
The destruction left from a group of fruitworms is insane. They come reliably every year and cover my garden. They really gross me the f*ck out and it's a necessity to hand pick their squishy bodies and then spray with BT. I loathe them.

Of course, the fruitworms have already crashed my garden party and ate their way through the last of my collards. They've started eye-balling my tomatoes, and I'm sure the tomato hornworms are not very far behind.
The Hornworms are never far behind.
Posing on polkas.
While the tomato hornworms are really cool to look at, they are my sworn enemy. Imagine having loose ones running amok in your house. It happened to me. Battle up!

xo
kittee

28 comments:

  1. I didn't even realize there was such a thing as stingy caterpillars! I love watching caterpillars eat, but then again, I don't have a garden. :)

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  2. swear to god, kittee, you have the most, uhm...interesting kinds of caterpillars where you live! I'd still freak out if I saw one because I'm silly like that. <3

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  3. Oh the death and destruction! We have a lot of this madness too - gardening in the South. But I think Louisiana is even worse.

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  4. I'm going to have nightmares now!

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  5. Oohwee, they're so cool looking & yet such a nuisance! I'm sorry to hear they're mucking up yr life!

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  6. But they're so cute though! Great photos, by the way.

    I guess I've never seen a stinging caterpillar...of course, NO is a tad bit warmer than Memphis, so they may not make it this far up.

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  7. They are so pretty. I always love your caterpillar photos.

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  8. Oh. My. God.

    You know all that bitching I do about the weather? Well, 9 months of winter still sucks worse, but hot damn do those sound horrible! I can't believe they fall on you out of the trees and sting you!

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  9. Your bugs are gorgeous, Kittee! Gorgeous in ... um... an evil way, that is.

    I like the spiny things though. The pictures are great.

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  10. Do you hate me for saying that these are adorable even though they mess up your garden?

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  11. Wow. I know they are bad for you and your garden, but they are so frigging fascinating to look at!

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  12. i never new caterpillar's stung! they are so gross and gorgeous at the same time.

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  13. Marlena,
    Yes, if you can avoid them and you don't mind giving up your crops, they are beautiful. Except their poops, which are also effusive and yucky.

    Celine,Leigh,Jordan
    I freak out too. I really freak sometimes. Right now I am about to freak out from the guts and creepy crawliness of them all.

    John,
    Pics!

    Melisser,
    Your well wishes make all the difference.

    Bianca,
    John is in TN too, so beware. He says y'all have these, though he may be referring to NC.

    Joolee, Mihl, Bazu, B36 and Susie,
    What're your addys again? Ha!

    xo
    kittee

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  14. I love this post! It made me laugh...but yet still feel horrible cause I know what stinging caterpillars are like :( Tell them who's boss girl!

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  15. I know they're pests...but fuzzy insects? I can;t help but go "awwww" when I look at your awesome photos.

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  16. how do you reconcile your being vegan with your need to spray/ get rid of the caterpillars in order to save your plants? i'm interested because i faced this same conundrum with slugs in my garden last year, and now i'm just trying to avoid planting stuff they like...

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    1. Thanks for your comment. I only pick caterpillars off of food I grow in the garden. The spray I use is BT and it's used in organic agriculture, it is non toxic to everything but the caterpillars. I justify it because it's the only way I can grow food in New Orleans. Any vegetable you buy at a market, whether organic or conventional, has been raised in a way that harms bugs. It's the only way to grow crops, otherwise they win.

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  17. adwoa,
    I also want to add that I kill other bugs as well, when they infest my home.

    xo
    kittee

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  18. this just made my whole day. i love them!

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  19. Damn, I didn't realize caterpillars were so darn dangerous! They are amazing looking, though, beautiful pictures.

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  20. Wow, I've never seen anything like that before, those stinging buck moth caterpillars are incredible looking - so sorry they sting. They are things of beauty though. I've always had a soft spot for caterpillars, but then I've never been attacked by one! Awesome photos.

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  21. These are the most beautiful caterpillar photos I've seen, but they remind me of one of the biggest things I don't miss about La. We don't seem to get many of them up here in Jackson, which is good because I'm still traumatized by a summer when I lived under a huge oak tree that was literally crawling with them. I got stung dozens of times, and the ultimate trauma was the night when I rolled over in bed on one. Sleep was difficult after that.

    I never knew the name of the different moths/caterpillars so I'm grateful for that info. Do you know what the big furry black ones are called?

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  22. My fiance is a vegan and I ended up here via her. I eat whatever she cooks, so I end up eating vegan when I am with her. Fret not my friend, I am a fish eating type of person, so you need not lecture me about cows.

    Anyway the point of my comment would be that I really enjoyed all your caterpillar pictures, and other insects. I really enjoy photography and, for whatever reason, I really enjoy botany, arachnid, and insect pictures taken with macro, they have so much beauty and detail.

    Sorry they are causing you problems in your garden, but I don't get that many interesting creatures here in South Florida. Thanks for the very cool photos.

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  23. Thank you for the pictures... they were very helpful in identifying what was eating my tomatoes... big and green but hard to see.

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  24. I found a stingy caterpillar in upstate NY... I never knew they existed, my finger is still sore as I type. Any remedy you have to stop the sensation? The one that I found does not look the ones pictured on your page; however, he does look to have horns and little spikes.

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    1. anonymous!
      sorry you got stung. i have learned if you put a piece of tape over the sting and rip it off really fast, you will get some of the stinging hairs off your finger that you can't see...

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  25. I found out what stung me, a saddleback caterpillar. Thanks

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  26. Wow!
    These pictures are really great!

    Cheers,
    Eric

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