Caterpillars of the moths of the genus Lonomia are probably the most dangerous caterpillars in the world accounting for more than 350 deaths between 1989 and 2005.
Butterflies are beautiful but some of their larvae, called caterpillars are very dangerous and can lead to death within minutes of being exposed to the hairs. The most dangerous caterpillars in the world are those of moths belonging to the genus Lonomia which can cause death within minutes of exposure to the venom found in their hairs. These caterpillars are said to have led to more than 350 deaths between 1989 and 2005.
Caterpillar hair generally contains venom which can cause dangerous problems to human health including: -
- Dermatitis – Caterpillar hairs are known to result in erosive skin inflammation or dermatitis which may damage the aesthetic value and texture of the skin.
- Urticaria – A type of dermatitis occurring on the skin in which rashes occurring as reddish and raised itchy bumps that are very painful.
- Osteochondritis – Some caterpillars are known to cause the inflammation of bone and cartilage.
- Coagulopathy – Some caterpillars cause a bleeding disorder in which blood clotting mechanisms fail leading to excessive loss of blood.
- Internal hemorrhage – Some species like those of the genus Lonomia have caterpillars that cause intracranial hemorrhage, leading to death within thirty minutes.
- Renal failure – The Lonomia genus has several species of moths whose caterpillars are toxic enough so as to cause kidney failure and eventually death.
- Conjunctivitis – The sharp hairs found on caterpillars can enter the skin and membranes such as those in the eyes leading to inflammatory reactions.
Would you rather be stung by caterpillars or be bitten by a cobra? The danger posed by both is nearly equal with caterpillars being associated with 1.7% deaths from their toxicity while cobras account for 1.8%. The chances of encountering venomous caterpillars is however larger.