Category: flannel moths

nanonaturalist: My yard is infested with these…

nanonaturalist:

My yard is infested with these adorable animate hairpieces. They look soft and cuddly, but if you ever see one of these (common in the US south), DO NOT TOUCH! Those hairs conceal heavy duty spines capable of injecting a highly potent venom. Even a light brush is enough to send some people to the ER.

I had heard about flannel moth caterpillars soon after I moved to Texas, and I made a mental note to not touch anything unless I knew for sure that it couldn’t hurt me (hasn’t kept me from getting bitten but I have never been stung because I was an idiot!). I was *hoping* that Texas was overrun by these guys, but after four years of not seeing one, I gave up.

… then I moved out to the country. And these babies are EATING MY PLUM SAPLING. I suspected these were the flannel moth caterpillars because of the joke about them looking like they escaped from the head of a particular unpopular individual, but they are TINY! and all of the photos online show mature caterpillars, not young ones. However, the family is distinct in that they have 7 pairs of prolegs (their little suction cup “feet”–more than usual for caterpillars!), and guess who was showing off 14 little prolegs today?

I was a little unnerved at first. I go out into the yard every day to manhandle plants to feed to the other caterpillars, and last night I found this beautiful fluffy baby eating a leaf in the stick insect tank. Did I mention these are highly venomous? That a sting on your finger can cause shooting pain and swelling up to your shoulder? Not exactly something I want to accidentally grab. So now I go out in the sweaty 90+ degree weather wearing vinyl gloves in the hope that they will save me.

So add flannel moths to the list of caterpillars invading my kitchen. The adults are totally harmless and look like fluffy teddy bears with wings. I’m trying to exercise moderation and NOT end up with hundreds of caterpillars again, so I only have four fluffy hairpieces.

PS: HAPPY MOTH WEEK EVERYONE!!!

June 12, 2017

Hey guys, remember when I was drowning in flannel moths? This was the beginning. 

reblobbed January 4, 2019

cwicseolfor: nanonaturalist: At last! My ti…

cwicseolfor:

nanonaturalist:

At last! My tiny fluffy teddy bear moths have arrived!

My first southern flannel moth adult emerged from his cocoon this morning. You may remember my previous posts of them: as caterpillars, they are the most adorable fluffy shy hairballs who are also so venomous their stings are considered the most painful kind you can get in North America.

They were so cute and I wanted to hold them SO BAD but the closest I could get was stroking the side of the tank while I wept over how life was so cruel to deny me the joy of holding these sweet babies.

Well, my first sweet baby is here. A boy: his antennae are feathered to detect the scent females let out to attract mates. I knew they were small, but I was still surprised to see this tiny baby. Every surface is covered in fluffy fur.

His little black boots. His fluffy bum. His orange mustache 😭

I’m not going to lie. I kissed him. He is perfect.

Cocoon made July 6, emerged August 8, 2017

HOLY CRAP

WHEN I SAW THE CATERPILLAR I CHOKED

I HAD NO IDEA THEY BECAME NON-VENOMOUS AS ADULTS

DUDE

…So for those of you lucky enough never to have met these critters without glass between you, we colloquially call them asps, after the deadly vipers of the old world.

They aren’t just painful but rapidly dangerous. The swelling from the slightest graze of a fingertip can throw a rash up your whole arm and feels like being oiled and held to a fire for a day; if you’re even mildly allergic the reaction will hospitalize you. AVOID AT ALL COSTS IN THE WILD, and please, if you aren’t completely equipped to keep them captive, don’t attempt to rear them in captivity. What I described was a largeish uncommonly healthy adult human without much in terms of allergies whose finger merely brushed the bug. What it could do to kids or pets doesn’t bear thinking about. I’d rather have venomous snakes in my yard than these guys, because the snakes are big enough to see, less likely to get into anything you use, and will move out of the way and/or warn you before they make you realize how bad “being alive” can get.

Since OP seems to have their lepidoptera down, I’ll wish them great luck with cages and cameras both, because these are great shots and deserve to be repaid only in fuzzy harmless adults and interested fanciers and researchers.

The rest of you: don’t.

^ 100% this

I have never been stung, so I cannot say first-hand what being stung feels like.  When I was raising the batch in these photos, I cleaned their enclosure with two pairs of pliers, while wearing nitrile gloves UNDER rubber-lined gardening gloves. Recently, I have become more comfortable with them, and on several occasions I think I may have touched a leaf that had a tiny microscopic piece of hair, and holy carp it’s pretty bad! By all accounts, I have heard actually being stung is the absolutely most painful sting you can possibly get from any insect in North America. And knowing how kids are so disposed to touching everything, everybody being aware of this caterpillar is absolutely essential. One example:

In Texas, they have been so numerous in some years that schools in San Antonio in 1923 and Galveston in 1951 were closed temporarily because of stings to children (Diaz 2005).

Source: University of Florida entomology [link]

I do a ton of outreach events. And IF I have flannel moth caterpillars (or if I find them!) I will put them in a closed container to show kids, parents, and everybody in between what this caterpillar actually looks like and why you should NEVER touch it. I raise these from eggs so I can show people what the younger ones look like, because most of the photos you see are of the mature caterpillars just about to pupate.

But I want to reiterate @cwicseolfor‘s point: Do not try this at home

August 23, 2018

nanonaturalist: Tank cleaning day for the fla…

nanonaturalist:

Tank cleaning day for the flannel baby! He’s probably busy molting right now (or asleep!). You can see the empty pupa from one of his unicorn prominent roommates in some of these. It’s the dark red-brown thing.

FYI: don’t do this at home. These caterpillars have such extremely painful stings that they recently made it into the news. No touching flannel babies!!!! Only touch adults!!!

Southern Flannel Moth caterpillar (Megalopyge opercularis)

July 21, 2018

A cocoon!!!

July 22, 2018

Tank cleaning day for the flannel baby! He’s p…

Tank cleaning day for the flannel baby! He’s probably busy molting right now (or asleep!). You can see the empty pupa from one of his unicorn prominent roommates in some of these. It’s the dark red-brown thing.

FYI: don’t do this at home. These caterpillars have such extremely painful stings that they recently made it into the news. No touching flannel babies!!!! Only touch adults!!!

Southern Flannel Moth caterpillar (Megalopyge opercularis)

July 21, 2018

Things you DON’T WANT TO FIND ESCAPED. Found a…

Things you DON’T WANT TO FIND ESCAPED. Found a Southern Flannel Baby on the plum today, so I put him in with the unicorns (also eating plum). And I didn’t close the lid all the way and he GOT OUT. D:

July 1, 2018

Speaking of feeling fuzzy, the female flannel …

Speaking of feeling fuzzy, the female flannel moth who was hanging out on the side of my house last night left some gifts for me on the window!

These are southern flannel moth eggs. The females cover the eggs with some of her belly fur to protect them. By the time she is done laying eggs, the female will be almost completely bald!

May 26, 2018

nanonaturalist: At last! My tiny fluffy teddy …

nanonaturalist:

At last! My tiny fluffy teddy bear moths have arrived!

My first southern flannel moth adult emerged from his cocoon this morning. You may remember my previous posts of them: as caterpillars, they are the most adorable fluffy shy hairballs who are also so venomous their stings are considered the most painful kind you can get in North America.

They were so cute and I wanted to hold them SO BAD but the closest I could get was stroking the side of the tank while I wept over how life was so cruel to deny me the joy of holding these sweet babies.

Well, my first sweet baby is here. A boy: his antennae are feathered to detect the scent females let out to attract mates. I knew they were small, but I was still surprised to see this tiny baby. Every surface is covered in fluffy fur.

His little black boots. His fluffy bum. His orange mustache 😭

I’m not going to lie. I kissed him. He is perfect.

Cocoon made July 6, emerged August 8, 2017

@snakeleggy asked

How long do they live as adults? I heard moths don’t last that long usually 😭

I’m not really sure how long they live, but most insects don’t live as adults very long (max one season). Some insects will spend years in their immature form, then become an adult, mate, hopefully produce offspring, and then die in a few weeks. When you think about it, insects are very fragile. It’s not hard for a moth to get beat up pretty fast–birds biting at their wings, flying into plants, getting caught in a rainstorm. 

The largest moths, the silk moths, don’t even have mouths as adults–they live one week after emerging from their pupae, which is enough time to find a mate and lay AS MANY EGGS AS POSSIBLE EVERYWHERE. I’ve had female flannels that I was (trying to) release, and they just won’t leave. They wait for a male to show up. And… one time, a wild one DID and started mating with her while my back was turned. And she laid SO MANY EGGS guys holy carp. You can read more about that adventure here [link].

May 1, 2018

Uh guys… I was releasing some southern …

Uh guys… I was releasing some southern flannel moths yesterday when a wild male appeared out of nowhere, flew into the tank, and started mating with my female. I’ve had females going on crazy egg laying sprees with no males around, so I’ve seen the eggs. But this morning, I went to check on the happy couple, and there are eggs EVERYWHERE. And these eggs are a lot more organized than the unfertilized ones. Neat little rows, happy faces on leaves, very clean.

But count them. Look at how many eggs. That is how many caterpillars I can expect. These are the horribly venomous walking hairpiece cuties I’ve posted previously. Getting stung by one is worse than kidney stones. I managed to avoid getting hurt when I was raising 11 from small caterpillars. But… This is over 100 eggs. I haven’t counted. I don’t really want to count.

Save me 

August 25, 2017