Which Caterpillars Are Safe and Dangerous to Touch?

Would you like to touch, pet or hold a caterpillar? Which Caterpillars Are Safe and Dangerous to Touch?

Which ones are harmful for your plants in your garden? Would you like to introduce caterpillars to children, but wish to keep them safe?

In this article, we’ll mention and discuss which caterpillars are safe and which ones are dangerous to touch.

Which Caterpillars Are Safe and Dangerous to Touch?

Most species of caterpillars are generally safe to touch, but that doesn’t mean you should. For example painted lady, swallowtail and even monarch caterpillars are safe to touch.

Hairy, fuzzy, bristled or brightly colored caterpillars tend to be venomous or poisonous. Err on the side of caution and keep your distance from most caterpillars that contain fuzzy hollowed bristles which may or may not contain venom.

What Is the Most Dangerous Caterpillar in the World?

Arguably the most dangerous caterpillar in the world is the “Assassin” caterpillar. It is also known as Taturana. Once the Assassin caterpillar has to become a butterfly, it is safe to touch.

In the larval stage as a caterpillar, they can release toxins through their spikes or bristles. This native Brazilian caterpillar blends in very well with tree bark. They aren’t aggressive, but will sting through their spikes if you accidentally step on them.

Their toxins are stored at the base of each spine. Aside from many of the more common allergic reactions, the reaction that it may cause could be lethal leading to disseminated intravascular coagulation and a consumptive coagulopathy leading to hemorrhaging.

How Can I Tell if a Caterpillar Is Poisonous?

You are looking for caterpillars that have:

  • Urticating spines
  • Fuzzy hair
  • Spiky bristles
  • Bright colors
  • Horns
  • Banded stripes

Some of the caterpillars with the appearance characteristics mentioned above are actually not poisonous. Nevertheless, it’s best to keep away from caterpillars that contain fuzzy exteriors.

They could turn into significant rashes, water blisters and even worse if ingested. At the very least, they may cause irritation of the skin or itchy eyes because these spines or hairs can easily come off.

Is the Monarch Caterpillar Poisonous?

The monarch caterpillar will eventually turn into into a monarch butterfly. These caterpillars are poisonous when swallowed. They are not dangerous to touch.

This is why monarch caterpillars are very popular in classrooms as well to teach biology lessons about nature’s curious critters.

There are many videos of children handling these docile creatures, but we should always be careful. When handling a caterpillar roughly, you may end up reducing their chances of ever turning into an adult butterfly.

This is because a monarch caterpillar or any other member of the caterpillar species may not be able to form chrysalis when damaged through rough handling of squeezing.

YouTube video

What Do I Do if I’m Stung by a Caterpillar?

If poisonous spines make their way into your skin and pierce it, you may have to act quickly. Some caterpillars are poisonous or venomous while others are not. It’s best to stay safe and exorcise the following recommendations:

  1. Do not remove caterpillars spines out of your skin with your hands.
  2. Put a piece of tape over the area where the spines are located.
  3. Pull the tape to remove the hairs or spines.
  4. Do this again until you feel that you have removed most of these spines.
  5. Wash the area with water and use soap.
  6. Baking soda and water may help to relieve itching.
  7. Hydrocortisone cream will help for blistering or reduce the chance of infection.
  8. If these blisters continue to progress and become larger, you may need a tetanus shot or a visit to a clinic.

What are Puss Caterpillars?

Puss caterpillars are also referred to as Asps. They have silky hair that look enticing to pet. They are soft and inviting but they are dangerous.

They have  poisonous glands through their hollow spines. The toxins that they can release can cause:

  • Rash
  • Swollen glands
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Imagine a caterpillar wearing a blond haired wig. This is what they look like. It’s kind of funny when you think about it,  but actually touching one is no laughing matter.

Are Saddleback Caterpillars Poisonous?

Yes. These caterpillars have jaunty spines. The saddleback’s body is very dangerous. This is one of the most seriously venomous caterpillars to roam the United States. The hollow spines can inject venom.

This can cause serious health problems and intense pain. It can feel like a knife stabbing you. Saddleback caterpillars do not wish to attack. They’re often find found hiding.

Look for bright white eye spots on them and maintain your distance.

Which Caterpillars Destroy Gardens?

Some caterpillars are not poisonous or venomous at all. They are however, pests in your garden. They are out to harm some of the best plants that you have been taking care of in your garden including seasonal vegetables.

Here are a few caterpillars and we consider safe to touch but very harmful for your garden:

  • Armyworm
  • Bollworm
  • Cabbage looper
  • Corn Earworm
  • Cutworm
  • Diamondback Moth Caterpillar
  • Fruittree Leafrollers
  • Green Cloverworm
  • Gypsy Moth
  • Imported Cabbageworm
  • Orange tortrix
  • Tent caterpillar
  • Tobacco budworm
  • Tomato Hornworm
  • Tomato Pinworm
  • Tussock moth caterpillar

Many of their names suggests that they are caterpillars that are focused on munching plants that you admire and desire in your own gardens.

It’s too bad because some of these caterpillars are cute and inviting to touch,  but we recommend that you eradicate them from your garden instead. There are plenty of products out there meant to repel or kill caterpillars in order to keep your garden safe.

Which Caterpillars Are Poisonous?

Here is a list of 15 caterpillars that we know are poisonous and should be avoided at all costs:

  • Buck Moth Caterpillar
  • Saddleback Caterpillar
  • Monkey Slug Caterpillar/Hag Moth Caterpillar
  • Hickory Tussock Caterpillar
  • Southern Flannel Moth Caterpillar or Puss Caterpillar
  • Spiny Oak Slug Moth Caterpillar
  • Moth Caterpillar
  • White Flannel Moth Caterpillar
  • Stinging Rose Caterpillar
  • American Dagger Caterpillar
  • Smeared Dagger Moth


Thanks for visiting ThePestManagement.com for the best information to help you to make the pest control process easy, safe & affordable.