“I found this worm-like insect on my t-shirt” says this reader about the black, spiky creature in the photo below. Although our reader provides no more context than this, we will do our best to identify the creature, or at the very least provide some helpful tips regarding the discovery of worm-like creatures such as this one.
Upon zooming in on this photo and taking a closer look at this critter, we think this is a caterpillar of some sort. We base this on the bulbous shape of what we presume to be its head, the segmentation of its body, and the spiky parts of its body, which are not found on many other types of worm-like creatures. If we were to take an educated guess at the specific species, we would say these could be mourning cloak butterfly caterpillars (Camberwell beauty caterpillars to those in the UK), but in that case this would have to be a very immature caterpillar, given the spareness of the spiky parts. Alternatively, it could be a peacock butterfly caterpillar, which is another species of black caterpillar with spikes all over its body. Again, it would have to be an immature one.
Either way, this critter is likely some type of caterpillar. Besides clothes moth larvae and pantry moth larvae, there are not too many caterpillar species that are known as household pests, and none that look like this. For that reason, we would suggest that our reader accidentally brought this caterpillar into the home with him; perhaps this caterpillar fell onto our reader’s shirt when he was outside. That said, if our reader does want to give his home a scan for any other similar, roaming larvae, then that might be a good idea, if just to verify whether or not this is some type of infestation (though we doubt it).
Now, when it comes to caterpillars (or any worm-like creatures) with spikes or bristles of any kind, it is best to avoid touching them with bare hands. This is because when a worm-like creature possesses spikes or bristles, it is always a defense mechanism against predators. Additionally, they are often filled with toxins that can be secreted at will. These toxins will do a whole lot more damage to a little insect than a human, but they can still cause allergic reactions that in turn cause stinging sensations, itching or rashes. So, if our reader means to move this caterpillar outside, we suggest that he use a dustpan or that he wears gardening/rubber gloves when picking it up.
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To conclude, the black, spiky “worm-like insect” our reader found on his t-shirt is a caterpillar. It may be a mourning cloak butterfly caterpillar or a peacock butterfly caterpillar, but we cannot be sure as this critter is very tiny and is likely underdeveloped. Either way, we do not think our reader needs to worry about infestations or about his health, but should he notice anything to the contrary, he is more than welcome to contact us again with more context and more photos. Of course, if he has immediate concerns about his health then he should seek medical help. We hope this articles proves insightful to our reader and we wish him the best!