Unique caterpillars inching into East Tennessee - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Unique caterpillars inching into East Tennessee

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The saddleback caterpillar, Acharia stimulea. The saddleback caterpillar, Acharia stimulea.
KNOXVILLE, TN (WBIR) - A Knoxville woman is warning others about a unique caterpillar after a scare last weekend.

Experts said that the creepy crawler can give someone nasty side effects if they're stung and more and more are inching their way into East Tennessee.

Ashley Davis said was cleaning out a flower bed in her back yard on Sunday when her hand started to throb.

"The pain just became intense and my hand started immediately swelling up," she explained.

Davis was having a severe allergic reaction and rushed to her after hours clinic for a cortisone shot. It wasn't until later that she found out what had caused it and it wasn't pretty.

"My daughter described it as looking like an angry dog. It had horns and odd coloring that I had never seen before," Davis said.

Experts said a saddleback caterpillar stung Davis.

"Their defense mechanism is small hairs on their body. When touched, they break off and release a chemical that causes a burning or a stinging. It can also cause blisters," said Neal Denton, UT Extension Director in Knox County.

Saddlebacks are leaf eating caterpillars and are most commonly found in vegetable gardens and rose bushes. Experts said they're pretty common in East Tennessee especially this time of year.

"Typically they are a late August to frost kind of pest here. People will usually get into them at that time," Denton said.

Davis said she was glad she reacted quickly. But even so, her symptoms lasted several days.

"It was more of a throbbing, burning pain. It went halfway up my arm," she said.

Experts said most people that are stung will experience discomfort for a few days but a lot of people, like Davis, are allergic.

"For someone that gets a larger reaction, you see redness and other things occurring like feeling funny or someone feeling unusual, they should probably get checked out," Denton said.

Davis shared a photo on her Facebook page as well as the WBIR Facebook page of that caterpillar to warn others.

She said she will probably never do any gardening without gloves from here on out.

Read more at WBIR's website.

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