Baton Rouge moms are tough. Resilient. There is very little we fear. We brave hurricanes, unpredictable traffic, and 1000% humidity with ease. We rock. But there is one thing that will bring us to our knees. One sight of it will send shivers up our spines and collect our children and lock the doors. It is the Hemileuca maia.
Common Name: Buck Moth Caterpillar
Even More Common Name: Stinging Caterpillar
The Name Given by Baton Rouge Moms: The Devil Himself
According to Wikkipedia, the spines on these jerks are connected to a poison sack. They live in oak trees and are common to Baton Rouge specifically because of the beautiful oaks we have all over the city. I LOVE the oak trees that make our city beautiful, but this time of year makes me want to BURN ALL THE TREES! My chickens – the creatures who eat all the nasty things and subsist on bugs and creepy crawlies – will not touch these caterpillars. The little boogers are clearly winning the survival of the fittest game.
If your rules are like mine, shoes are required for outside play only one time of the year. It’s not those rare times when the temperature dips below 50 degrees. Nah, the kids will come in and put on shoes when they get cold. It’s not mid-summer when stickers start growing in the grass. Mild annoyance at most. Rain? Are you kidding? Kids, go put your swimsuits on and jump in the puddles! We stay out of shoes and scramble for matching flip flops when we leave the house. Oh, but when that first stinging caterpillar makes his ugly, unwanted appearance on my property, the kids get a lecture on the importance of proper footwear. Anyone who has ever had the misfortune of accidentally stepping on one or whose toddler has ever sat on one of these devils wouldn’t wish the pain on their worst enemy. One of my earliest memories is seeing the large red welt on my baby sister’s leg after she sat on one.
I’m okay with my children learning natural consequences in most circumstances. For example, “I’m sorry that you lost your toy in the store when I told you not to bring it!” Stepping on a stinging caterpillar is not one of those times. I wish it could be avoided, but sometimes it’s the only way Baton Rouge kids will learn to stay clear of these jerks.
The spring just before my daughter turned two, the caterpillars were invading our carport. After wrestling shoes on her and showing her a caterpillar AND giving explicit instructions not to touch the caterpillars, I stepped inside briefly only to hear a loud wail a moment later. My poor girl came in and with tears in her eyes and managed to cry out, “touch buuuuuugggg!!!” It was a relatively mild sting, but it was enough to stop her from doing it again. All across social media, my friends are posting similar stories about their little ones’ unfortunate contacts with the devils.
Baton Rouge moms know to keep a stock of scotch tape, ice packs, baking soda, and toothpaste to treat the stings. These items are more essential than a first aid kit. If you don’t have these things on hand, GO GET THEM NOW! This is your stinging caterpillar survival kit. The scotch tape will pull the stingers from the skin. Baking soda and toothpaste can neutralize the acid in the poison.
Baton Rouge mamas, let us not fear. We’ve got this. Put shoes on those babies. Put some tape and toothpaste in your purse. We will survive another spring of the stinging caterpillar!