Furry, Black Worm-like Creature Could be a Venomous Caterpillar

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“I found this very small black worm in a t-shirt that I left on the ground,” writes this reader in his submission regarding the black worm-like critter pictured below. “I live in the city and I would like to know what this could be. This picture was taken moments after I killed it (which was kind of hard).” First off, we want to note that we never condone killing the organisms our readers find in their homes, unless they are definitely a threat to the person or their pets, or if infestations of the given organism are particularly severe (eg: carpet beetle larvae). Secondly, we want to address the identity of the creature. At first we thought it could be some kind of clothes pest, based on the fact that our reader found it on his shirt. However, this critter does not really look like any of the common clothes pests. So, what is it?

The more we inspected the caterpillar the more we thought it looked furry. It reminds us of the woolly bear caterpillar (AKA the Isabella tiger moth caterpillar) – a bushy black and brown caterpillar that has venomous bristles. However, despite their possession of venom, they do not typically inject people with it and cannot urticate, which means that they cannot eject their bristles into you. That said, we still do not recommend making physical contact with it, as it is possible to develop dermatitis from them. The adult caterpillars have a distinct reddish-brown stripe running through its otherwise black bristles, which this creature does not have. That, in addition to its minuscule size, makes us think that, if this is a woolly bear caterpillar, then it is an immature one: maybe newly-hatched.

With that in mind, it is entirely possible that this is not a woolly bear caterpillar. Another furry, black caterpillar we thought of when we saw this critter was the giant leopard moth caterpillar. When more mature, this caterpillar has thin stripes of red running through its bristles. Like the woolly bear caterpillar, this caterpillar’s bristles are neither venomous nor urticant, so our reader need not fear physical contact. However, we still advise against it, as unpredictable allergic reactions could nonetheless occur. What is interesting about this caterpillar is that its caterpillar stage is quite long; in fact, the giant leopard moth spends the entire winter as a caterpillar. This makes sense though, as the caterpillar can grow up to three inches, and the full-grown moth is also massive, with a wingspan of up to three inches. If this caterpillar truly was a giant leopard moth caterpillar, then it is definitely immature.

Our last guess is that this would be an asp caterpillar, a furry caterpillar that is extremely venomous and dangerous. It should never be touched. It can cause such excruciating pain that people who have touched this caterpillar have ended up in the hospital. These are the larval form of the Southern flannel moths, which are just as furry, and are also very big. Some people describe these moths as alien creatures, and we do have to admit that they do have a rather special quality to them, which makes them strangely beautiful. In any case, we do not recommend that our reader make physical contact with the caterpillar.

To conclude, we are not entirely sure what type of caterpillar our reader found, but if it is any of the bristly caterpillars we listed (woolly bear caterpillar, giant leopard moth caterpillar, or asp caterpillar) then we think it is likely immature, maybe even newly-hatched. Despite not being able to land on any one identification, we hope that we were able to help our reader to some degree, and we wish him the very best!

 

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Summary
Furry, Black Worm-like Creature Could be a Venomous Caterpillar
Article Name
Furry, Black Worm-like Creature Could be a Venomous Caterpillar
Description
"I found this very small black worm in a t-shirt that I left on the ground," writes this reader in his submission regarding the black worm-like critter pictured below. "I live in the city and I would like to know what this could be. This picture was taken moments after I killed it (which was kind of hard)." First off, we want to note that we never condone killing the organisms our readers find in their homes, unless they are definitely a threat to the person or their pets, or if infestations of the given organism are particularly severe (eg: carpet beetle larvae). Secondly, we want to address the identity of the creature. At first we thought it could be some kind of clothes pest, based on the fact that our reader found it on his shirt. However, this critter does not really look like any of the common clothes pests. So, what is it?
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Author: Worm Researcher Anton

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