Ouch! That Stings…

Buck Moth Caterpillars

It’s that time of year again in New Orleans…buck moth caterpillars are back.  I remember my first experience with these nasty little critters.  We had moved into a house in Algiers that had a huge oak tree in the front yard.  I loved that tree.  It gave me the perfect spot to plant some shade loving flowers and kept the front of the house from getting hit directly by the hot, summer sun.

But the very first spring we lived there, all of sudden we were seeing these fuzzy, black caterpillars crawling across the porch and the sidewalks.   They were everywhere!  On the cars, in the driveway and worst of all, literally falling out of the trees.


Photo courtesy of:  urtica at flickr.com

One day, my oldest son (who was small at the time) started screaming at the top of his lungs while in the front yard.  It turned out that one of the caterpillars had fallen out of my beloved oak tree and stung him on the back of his neck.  Thank goodness for dear Mrs. Robinson, who lived across the street, who promptly ran out with a tube of toothpaste to put on the sting.  Don’t ask me how it works, I just know that it did.

Thus began the annual tree spraying every spring in my yard.  The street we live on now is lined with oak trees, so I coordinate with my neighbors and we all get our trees sprayed at the same time.   If you have an oak in your yard, I highly recommend you do the same!

live oak trees new orleans

From the LSU Agricultural Center website:

Buck Moth
Hemileuca maia Drury
This purple-black caterpillar has a reddish head and small round white spots over its body. Several spiny structures are located on each segment of the body. When touched, these spiny structures cause a burning, itching and reddening of the areas stung. Buck moth larvae tend to cluster on branches and move about in a follow-the-leader fashion. Primary hosts include oak, willow, wild cherry, rose and several other deciduous plant species. The larval state of this species is prominent in April and May, but larvae have been collected in late May.

For more information on getting your trees sprayed:

Parkway Partners offers tree spraying for $75 per tree.  (You must sign up for spraying by March 31st)

Tree Man, Inc. in Algiers  (504) 394-4207.  This is MY tree guy and he will offer discounts to neighbors who all get their trees sprayed at the same time.

Here’s to a sting free spring!

p.s.  My youngest walked through the room while I was writing this and saw the picture of the buck moth.  His response was “Man, those caterpillars are MEAN”!

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