Help! Severe caterpillar sting (possibly buckmoth caterpillar)

midcitygardener(9)May 21, 2010

Yesterday I was working in the garden and kneeled on what looked like a buckmoth caterpillar. It stung me through my pants and felt like someone sliced my knee and poured a buckets of fresh lemon juice on it over and over till it got a little numb. I did what everyone I spoke with said to do: tape it and yank to try to remove spines (don't see em) Applied a baking soda paste and after an hour or so, rinsed & tried benzocaine ointment and finally rinsed and applied a bit of toothpaste w/ fluoride (a friend swears by it - but nothing worked to reduce swelling or pain). Nothing helped the severe pain like cold water - but this morning I woke up and my knee is HUGE and I can hardly walk. Any other suggestions? How long does this last or how long till I should be worried?

Image link:

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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Wish you'd done a thorough wash with soap and water after removing the hairs, but...

Try combination of ice, advil, benadryl (or other OTC allergy medication/antihistamine) for the swelling. If severe swelling continues, or nausea, headache or any other symptoms are appearing that are not right at the 'sting' area you may be hypersensitive and should check in with your doctor. Of course, this kind of thing always happens right at a weekend, leaving you trying to decide whether to have it checked out, or wait it out :(

    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 10:07AM
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Morz8, thanks very much for your prompt response. I absolutely love gardening and don't want to be dissuaded by this incident. The swelling has moved a few inches lower than the sting itself but I'm not nauseous. . .
Guess I need to start using the silly garden knee pad that I have but never use.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 4:33PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Caterpillar stings aren't within my experience :) but I have a good friend who is our public health nurse who is only a phone call away. She thought it sounded like a local reaction as opposed to a systemic allergic reaction, but did add if the skin became reddened or rashy in the swollen area you should have it checked.

Hopefully all our garden injuries will be minor - same friend does make a point of keeping us current on tetanus shots though just in case.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 10:56PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I am so sorry this happened. You'll never forget about this chance meeting, will you? Some caterpillar stings are terribly painful and can cause severe reactions. Are you hypersensitive to other insect 'bodily fluids' such as those from ants, mosquitoes and the like? My own experience was with the Saddleback caterpillar. I thought that I had been shot when my arm brushed against the stinging hairs.

The bad thing about the buckmoth caterpillar is that they are often found in numbers. So be watchful.

Wear gloves. Keep some meat tenderizer with you when working outside. Make a paste of the granules to apply directly to the site right after you've been stung. It will help. Purchase some benadryl to keep on hand for such incidents, both oral and topical.

I've seen people develop what looks like broken blood vessels where the spines entered the skin. Took several days for the whole thing to clear up and go away.

Tell us how you are doing!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2010 at 7:29AM
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I can't recall having an allergic reaction to any insects. I've tried Benadryl, ibuprophen, corizone... It's Day 3 & I've just completed Remedy #9, Oatmeal Bath. Swelling has gone down a bit - not as much of a distinct welt from knee to calf but still red, hot and feels like a water balloon when I walk upstairs. The hardest part is trying to keep it elevated when I'd rather be doing chores or working in the garden - or enjoying this weekend's free music festival.
Rhizo - thanks for your feedback as well. Buckmoth caterpillars are usually seen in clumps in our neighborhood and this year, there were very few. I almost always wear gloves as I have a lot of prickly plants, but this caterpillar was tucked beside my brick flower bed

Here is a link that might be useful: The Buckmoth caterpillar responsible for my limp.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2010 at 6:56PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Wicked little guy...and a great picture!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2010 at 10:05PM
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Wow! I've never heard of the Buckmoth caterpillar, and I never knew a caterpillar could give you a sting! I live in the land of rattlesnakes, scorpions, and tarantulas (intimidating, but not dangerous at all).

I think you need to contact your doctor. If it is still red, hot, and inflamed after three days, you probably have an infection. Think of all the bacteria on the spine that punctured you and everything that was already on your knee and introduced into the wound. Get it checked!

    Bookmark   May 25, 2010 at 1:20AM
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asturnut(4b- Alaska)

i had a horrible horrible reaction to a saddleback caterpillar sting once. i ended up with chills, nausea and the most horrible burning/stinging pain that lasted over 12 hours. i had night sweats that night. HORRIBLE. the only other time i had a severe reaction like that was to a wasp sting. boy oh boy, i'm much more cautious in the garden since then.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2010 at 4:21PM
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this happened to me today by a buck moth caterpillar, i don't know what made me do this but i grabbed lemon juice and poured it over the infected area.. it seemed to work and put a stop to the reaction to the poison, for pain i used some sting reliever and that helped the pain. the area stopped swelling and is now back to normal, however, i did not put tape over it and remove the hairs, im a little worried that the hairs are still in there, even though they are neutralized.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 3:47AM
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ill have to say being stung by a buckmoth caterpillar is one of the most painful things ive had to deal with. it was almost 20 years ago and i still have a scar.

my great dane leaned against me pushing my upper calf against a tree where the large caterpillar was perched....basically pinning it between the tree and my leg. it felt and looked like i had been branded. they almost had to lance my leg because the swelling was so bad....and im not allergic to anything. it was subsequently identified by someone at the forida extension the time, i had no idea what species i had encountered.

needless to say, i still cringe when i see them in my woodland garden. april and may seems to be the season to really watch for them here in central alabama.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2011 at 8:54PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I thought I'd post some pictures of the Buck Moth caterpillar. To be on the 'safe' side, any spiny or hairy caterpillars should be handled with great caution until properly identified.

Anyone who is regularly in the yard or garden or woods should probably be aware of which stinging caterpillars might be common to the area and have the necessary medical supplies on hand.

I've had the 'pleasure' of being stung by the huge cicada killer wasp, reputed to be one of the most painful stings around. If I had a choice, I'd take 10 more of those stings than 1 more from the Saddleback caterpillar!

Here is a link that might be useful: Click here to see!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 4:34AM
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It happened to me yesterday involving a Buckmoth caterpillar stinging me on the tip of my left index finger. I experienced the expected things - severe burning, swelling, etc. and I took the recommended actions. The odd thing is most of the swelling and redness subsided within a few hours by the evening. But this morning (the day after) my finger has swollen again. It doesn't hurt much at all and doesn't feel that sensitive - but something is definitely happening. It feels a bit itchy, but not terribly bad. Naturally, the swelling is making my finger stiff and hard to bend. The swelling extends below the bottom knuckle (closest to the base of the hand). Any comments or suggestions? Many thanks and God Bless!

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 12:58PM
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