How to identify urticating caterpillars? (time sensitive)

Hello everyone. As many of you may remember, I’ve mentioned the caterpillar topic before in this forum, being me someone who raises caterpillars as a hobby. So, a friend of mine found a big hairy caterpillar and suddenly brought it to me. I was already something familiar to me, an Apatelodes caterpillar. They are common during the rainy season, so it wasn’t a surprise. But I’ve never raised the caterpillar before I really want to know if it is safe to handle. I’ve found no information on internet so I wondered if any expert lepidopterists around have any idea if there are any Apatelodidae caterpillars reported to be urticating or if there is any way possible to tell apart stinging caterpillars from safe caterpillars, not that there’s a magic formula to do so but urticating caterpillars usually belong to specific families.
Any contribution will be thanked.

Here is an observation of the same caterpillar I have right now, if it is useful:

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Interesting. Try reaching out direct to iNat with a message asking if they know some places to start finding out. They normally get back fairly quickly.

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To be clear, iNat staff are not necesssarily biological experts, although a few of us (not me) are very knowledgable in some areas. Our jobs are to make sure iNat as a platform and community are working as best we can. Natural history questions should not be directed to iNat staff - it’s the iNat community that powers the knowledge and learning that happens here, so I’d ask that question on the forum (like you have) or on your observation.

That being said, what basic knowledge I have about caterpillars is that one should generallly be careful with hairy caterpillars


@mention Mexican lepidopterists on your obs. That is the best place and way to get an iNat answer.

Or if you have a local FB caterpillar group?


Urticating has a very specific (scientifically) meaning associated with structure. However, the term is widely used inappropriately to refer to any spiny or hairy caterpillar that might cause injury or irritation.

The answer to your specific question is no, that genus is not urticating. However, take that with a bit of caution, it’s rather like answering the question “is that rattlesnake poisonous?”

Aside from very few caterpillars, most of them but not ALL of them tropical, sensitivity to stinging caterpillars is variable depending upon the individual human. I handle many urticating and otherwise “stinging” caterpillars with no ill effect; I’ve seen others handle the same caterpillars and suffer serious reactions. YMMV.

The rule of thumb I always have used is if it is floofy, it is more likely to sting or cause irritaton, and the “bald” ones, (So cutworms, monarchs, etc) are safer to handle. Like @sopacexplorer said, different ppl will probably have different reactions, so I imagine some people react to all fluffy caterpillars, and some, like sopacexplorer, are more resiliant.

Very cute caterpillar, btw!

As an FYI, a rattlesnake would be venomous, not poisonous. I think that venomous would also apply to caterpillars that deliver toxins through spines in their hairs, but I’m less experienced with these:

Use latex gloves and you should be fine.

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Right, that was my point.

Rattlesnakes are not poisonous, they are venomous. If someone asks, as is commonly asked, “are rattlesnakes poisonous?” the correct answer is no. However, that would often lead the question asker to believe said snake might be OK to handle.

Same with “urticating”. There are plenty of non-urticating caterpillars that may cause a reaction in some people, so knowing that I did not want to answer with a simple no to OP’s question.

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