Saddleback Caterpillar: Identification, Infestation & Control

The saddleback caterpillar is a strange-looking pest covered in spines and unusual markings. Many caterpillars have spines that are usually harmless in superficial but the saddleback caterpillar will sting causing pain redness, and swelling.

In this article, you will get to know how to identify, inspect for infestation, and control Saddleback caterpillars on your property. So you can eliminate these pests safely and efficiently from your surroundings.


Identification: What is a Saddleback Caterpillar?

In any pest control plan, what you should do first is to identify what exactly you’re dealing with, Carelessness with identification can lead to wrong treatment methods which will cost you time and money.

So, what is a saddleback caterpillar?

The saddleback caterpillar, scientifically known as Acharia stimulea (previously Sibine stimulea), is the larval stage of a moth species that is indigenous to the eastern region of North America.

In eastern North America, you can find the colorful and venomous saddleback caterpillar. The Mexican population also has it. The species is classified in the family Limacodidae, which includes the slug caterpillars.

The saddleback caterpillar is mostly green, with brown tips, and a large brown spot in the middle surrounded by a white ring. It sports two sets of horns made of flesh at either end.

These, along with much of the rest of the body, are covered in urticating hairs that release a poison that causes itching. Humans who come into contact with the hairs develop a severe rash and, in some cases, feel sick.

The saddleback caterpillar lives in woodlands, forests, and even gardens. The oak, maple, and apple trees are only a few of the many species it enjoys. The full-grown saddleback moth is roughly an inch across its wings.


Read also: Proven Ways on How to Get Rid of Tent Caterpillars


Picture of a Saddleback Caterpillar

Below is a picture of a saddleback caterpillar;

Saddleback Caterpillar
Saddleback Caterpillar on leaf


Saddleback Caterpillar Moth

Eastern North America and Mexico are home to the saddleback caterpillar moth, or Acharia stimulea. Its distribution even extends to Central America. The caterpillars of this moth have a distinctive saddle-shaped marking on their backs, hence the name.

Slug caterpillars (Limacodidae) include the saddleback caterpillar moth. The caterpillars grow to a length of around 2.5 centimeters (1 inch), and their green bodies are marked with brown bands at the head and the tail.

The middle of the white and brown saddle-shaped mark is darker. The caterpillars’ ends are tipped with meaty horns. These horns, along with the rest of the animal’s body, are coated in stinging urticating hairs.

The female saddleback caterpillar moth deposits her eggs on trees like oaks, maples, and apples. As soon as the eggs hatch, the caterpillars begin munching on the foliage. After roughly three weeks of growth, the caterpillars enter their pupal stage. In around two weeks, the adults emerge from the pupae.

Although its sting is unpleasant, the saddleback caterpillar moth is not considered a major nuisance. Saddleback caterpillar stings should be treated with soap, water, and a cold compress. Get medical help if the discomfort is unbearable.


Read also: The True Meaning Behind the White Moth


Picture of a Saddleback Caterpillar Moth

Below is a picture of the Saddleback Caterpillar Moth;

Saddleback Caterpillar Moth
Saddleback Caterpillar Moth on a leaf


Saddleback Caterpillar Butterfly

The Acharia stimulea is a butterfly species belonging to the family Limacodidae. The caterpillar is commonly referred to as the saddleback caterpillar, while the adult moth is occasionally known as the saddleback moth.

The saddleback caterpillar butterfly is frequently observed in forested areas, woodlands, and gardens. The body exhibits a white-ringed brown dot resembling a saddle.

The saddleback caterpillar butterfly consumes a range of plant species, such as oak, maple, and apple trees. The mature moth is a brown insect with a wingspan of approximately 1 inch.


Read also: How many Legs does a Caterpillar have?


Picture of a Saddleback Caterpillar Butterfly

Below is a picture of the Saddleback Caterpillar Butterfly;

Saddleback Caterpillar Butterfly
Saddleback Caterpillar Butterfly


Infestation: What Attracts Saddleback Caterpillars?

Saddleback caterpillars exhibit attraction towards a diverse range of stimuli, which may include:

  1. Saddleback caterpillars have a diverse range of host plants, such as oak, maple, apple, and rose trees. They also consume ornamental plants like hollyhocks and spirea.
  2. Saddleback caterpillars are attracted to the odor of overripe fruit. They may also exhibit attraction towards the sap of wounded plants.
  3. Moisture attracts saddleback caterpillars. They commonly inhabit moist environments, such as in close proximity to bodies of water such as streams or ponds.
  4. Saddleback caterpillars exhibit phototaxis. They can be located in close proximity to streetlights or other artificial light sources.
  5. Saddleback caterpillars exhibit a preference for heat. They commonly inhabit sunlit regions.

To discourage the presence of saddleback caterpillars in your garden, there are several preventive measures that can be implemented.

  1. Remove host plants: Eliminate any host plants that serve as a food source for saddleback caterpillars from your garden.
  2. Remove saddleback caterpillars by manually picking them off and properly disposing of them.
  3. Insecticidal soap is effective against saddleback caterpillars. Follow the instructions provided on the label for proper application.
  4. Beneficial insects can be attracted to control saddleback caterpillars. The insects mentioned are ladybugs, lacewings, and praying mantises.

In order to attract these insects to your garden, it is recommended to cultivate flowers that are known to be appealing to them, such as dill, fennel, and yarrow.


Can a Saddleback Caterpillar Kill You?

Although the sting of a saddleback caterpillar is extremely unpleasant, it is important to note that it is rarely fatal. Most people who come into contact with these caterpillars report feeling pain, swelling, and discomfort at the site of contact, much like they would after being stung by a bee or wasp.

More severe allergic reactions like hives, trouble breathing, or anaphylaxis do occur, but only in extremely rare circumstances.


Read also: How To Use Mavrik Perimeter Insecticide


Is a Saddleback Caterpillar Poisonous?

Saddleback caterpillars are not picky and feed on a variety of foliage, including Shrubbery, trees, leaves, and turfgrass depending on your climate. You can start to see young caterpillars in the spring until they reach maturation as late as early fall.

When looking for Saddleback caterpillars in your yard be careful not to make direct contact with the poison in their spines can cause redness and swelling for up to one week or more severe symptoms like migraines or anaphylactic shock.

Use First Aid Immediately

The time to act after being stung by a saddleback caterpillar is immediately. The procedure is as follows:

  1. Use soap and water to gently scrub the affected area to eliminate any remaining venom.
  2. Apply adhesive tape to the affected area, and then carefully peel it off to extract the spines.
  3. OTC pain medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help lessen pain and inflammation.
  4. Pain and swelling can be reduced by using a cold compress or ice pack on the affected area.

Get Some Help From The Health Experts

Most people can safely go about their day after being stung by a saddleback caterpillar, but those with serious allergies should seek medical attention immediately.

Seek emergency medical assistance if you or a loved one has symptoms such as trouble breathing, swelling of the face or neck, or a broad rash. Although anaphylactic reactions are uncommon, they nevertheless need to be treated quickly with epinephrine.


Control: How to Get Rid of Saddleback Caterpillar

When starting any pest control treatment ensure to wear your personal protective equipment or PPE, and remember to keep all people and pets off the treated areas until dry.

To get rid of Saddleback caterpillars, you’ll want to apply a broad spectrum of repelling insecticides like Supreme IT.

What is Supreme IT Insecticide?

Supreme IT is a liquid insecticide concentrate made with bifenthrin to target pests like Saddleback caterpillars.

How to Apply Supreme IT Insecticide?

  1. Mix 1/8 to 1/4 of a fluid ounce of Supreme IT into one gallon of water in straight 1,000 square feet.
  2. Apply the product over ornamental shrubbery on your property.
  3. Make sure to treat both the foliage and the undersides of leaves.
  4. Spray until wet and allow the product to dry completely.

Supreme IT will leave behind a residual barrier that will repel pests from treated areas for up to 90 days. Saddleback caterpillars, the matured moths, and other labeled pests that make contact with the spray or its residual will have their nervous systems impacted and die after several hours.


Where to Buy Supreme IT Insecticide?

You can buy Supreme IT insecticide here.


How to Prevent Saddleback Caterpillar from Returning to Your Property

Prevention is essential to keeping pests in check, even after you’ve applied insecticides, the best way to stop pest activity is to prevent them from returning.

You can prevent Saddleback Caterpillar by the following:

  1. Keep up with routine lawn care and maintenance, healthier Lawns are less prone to infestation and easily recover from minor damage.
  2. If you’ve spotted signs of pest damage on foliage, prune away those dead plant limbs to encourage new growth.
  3. If you have white outdoor lighting consider switching to organic yellow lights, many nocturnal insects like saddleback moths are attracted to white lights. So switching to Yellow lighting will reduce activity around your home.

Lastly, keep up with regularly scheduled applications of Supreme IT. This product lasts for up to 90 days, so we recommend you make treatments every three months to ensure protection year-round.

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