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They don’t call this creature the assassin for nothing. It can kill you with a single touch. Its body is covered in sharp spines that will inject you with potent venom that could make you bleed to death. And to make matters worse, you might not even notice that you’ve been stung until it’s too late.

This silkworm moth inhabits the forest areas of South America, particularly Brazil. It’s no larger than 5.5 cm (2 in), but its caterpillar offspring are packed with anti-clotting agents. In a matter of hours, you’d be facing acute renal failure and brain hemorrhaging. In 50% of cases where these symptoms occur, the outcome will be fatal. Why should you be extra careful around trees? How many stings would it take to kill you? And how could a piece of duct tape save your life?


Step 1. Stay away from trees

The assassin caterpillar has a variety of colors. It can be a beautiful bright green or have a deep brown tone that allows it to perfectly blend into trees and leaves. These are also the silkworm moth’s favorite places to lay its eggs. This dangerous camouflage helps protect plants from animals eating them. For you, the unsuspecting hiker, it means that if you accidentally brush against the wrong tree you could end up stung by dozens of these potentially deadly assassins. Often found on the trunks, it’s common to find these venomous bugs lounging around in groups of 20 or more.

Step 2. Beware the Inflammation

The killer caterpillar sting is rather subtle so you probably won’t even feel it, or have a visible wound. You might think that’s a good thing, but guess again. Some people will notice local pain and inflammation right after the sting. If you’re part of that lucky group, you need to wash the area with soap and water immediately. Then apply something cold. An ice pack would do the trick. If you don’t see or feel the puncture but you’ve been out in the wild and start to feel lethargic and feverish, seek medical attention as soon as you can. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

Step 3. Get Duct Tape

After washing the wound, some spines can be still lodged in your skin. To get rid of those you’ll need a simple piece of duct tape. Place the tape on top of the wound and then remove it gently. You can use topical corticosteroids afterward to help with inflammation and irritation.


Step 4. Don’t Brush it Off

Experts say that the toxic effects of the assassin caterpillar typically require more than 20 stings to have a severe impact on your health. If I were you, I wouldn’t dare just brush off those few stings. A 60-year-old man from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil accidentally crushed six caterpillars with his arm.

Even though he was careful to wash the area, apply alcohol and even took an anti-allergy drug, 20 minutes later the wound started to swollen and felt like burning. Later in the evening, severe symptoms started to appear. He had intense abdominal pain and couldn’t urinate. After a trip to the hospital, he was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure.

Step 5. Find the Antivenom

The severe consequences of being stung, such as pulmonary and intracranial hemorrhaging or kidney failure, can begin 72 hours after coming into contact with the assassin caterpillar. That’s your window of time to find the antivenom. This serum reverses the coagulation disorder caused by the caterpillar’s venom. Its early administration prevents the bleeding that leads to life-threatening conditions.


You survived an encounter with an assassin caterpillar. But there’s still another assassin out there, known as the kissing bug. If you find yourself waking up with bloody bedsheets, then the chances are that a bunch of them have already started attacking you. Want to know how to fight them off?


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