Contact: Eric Day, Manager, Insect Identification Laboratory
Size: 3/8 to 1 inch (10 to 24 mm)
Color: Brownish with tuffs of short stinging bristles.
Description: The hackberry leaf slug grows to about an inch long and has six small tufts of hair on each segment. Its body is off-white with a large purple patch on the back. Hackberry leaves are its preferred food.
Habitat: The hackberry leaf slug prefers to eat hackberry leaves. They are found in late summer.
Life Cycle: The caterpillar's stinging bristles are incorporated into their cocoon to protect the pupa.
Type Of Damage: The poisonous hairs or spins are hollow and connected to underlying poison glands. Contact with them causes a burning sensation and inflammation that can be as painful as a bee sting. The irritation can last for a day or two and may be accompanied by nausea during the first few hours. Usually the site of contact reddens and swells much like a bee sting.
Control: A person "stung" by a poisonous caterpillar should immediately wash the affected area to remove any insect hairs and poison that remain. An ice pack will help reduce swelling, and creams and lotions containing steroids will lessen the discomfort and promote healing. Persons known to be sensitive to insect stings should consult a physician. Stinging caterpillars rarely occur in sufficient numbers to be considered plant pests, but people who work with ornamental plants should learn to recognize them and avoid touching them.