Friday, May 7, 2010

Beware of Hitchhikers!

Just another day in southeast Louisiana -- petroleum fumes occasionally wafting through the spring breeze to compete with the fragrance of gardenia and jasmine on our block, and an unexplained sick headache nagging at me for days.

Then, I meet this guy.

As I parked at the neighborhood mom-'n-pop grocery yesterday and glanced in the side mirror to check for thugs sneaking up on me (not really -- I just have a habit of checking all my mirrors before shifting into park. I'm not sure why -- maybe it is a subliminal thug-confounding thing!), this little guy popped his head up and said, "Hi there!" He rode home with me, catching the breeze on the side mirror.

I'm told by a Baton Rouge school-teacher Facebook friend that he's a Tussock Moth Caterpillar. He's colorful and has funny nodules on his back. He appears to have two large feathery antennae and something long and feathery springing from his rear end. Oddly, he didn't appear to have stinging spines like Mr. Buckmoth Caterpillar. I was apparently wrong.

He was just comical, the way he appeared to be listening to me, waving those feathery antennae around -- he made me smile, but something told me not to invite him to crawl around on my hand like I would invite an Arkansas woolly-booger.

Pepper tried to ootch him onto a dollar bill so he could put him safely into the jasmine on the phone pole. But, the little guy slipped, fell onto the pavement, and scurried under the car.

Now, after looking him up, I kinda hope he fried on the pavement under the car! It appears that up-close-and-personal contact with Mr. Tussock Moth Caterpillar's feathery plumage can cause quite a number of unpleasant symptoms in human beings, including poisoning. And he and his kin can pretty much defoliate a tree without breaking a sweat!

Moral of the story -- #1: for all the fun and culture it has to offer, southeast Louisiana is a very dangerous place!

And, #2: always listen to that little voice in your head that warns you about picking up strangers, no matter the species.


  1. I am a serious neanderthal when it comes to creepy-crawly things. Death by squishing is immediate. No quarter. Ever.

    Just to be clear: "Creepy-crawlies" do not include ladybugs, butterflies, praying mantises and other beneficial miniature life forms.

  2. Heh! How did that country song go? "Pickin' up strangers...lemme tell ya' 'bout the dangers..."

  3. hi Moogie,

    that is a weird yet cool looking caterpillar! have you heard of a 'Leopard Slug'? They get up to like 5-6 inches long (about the length of your hand)... I took this snap of one in our yard couple months ago.

    p.s. I like the various pix of your black lab, he's a cutie

    cheers from a Chicago girl in NZ