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saddleback caterpillar

Q:  I found this caterpillar on my citrus.  Can you tell me what it is?

A:  Thanks for bringing in this caterpillar to the Extension office.  Your caterpillars provided an excellent opportunity to share with the Master Gardener volunteers, most of whom had never seen a live saddleback specimen. The caterpillars were saddleback caterpillars, Sabine stimulea (Clemus), which are very attractive. Most of its body is brown but it appears to have a green covering on its back and sides which is edged in white. There is an oval spot in the middle of the green color which looks similar to a saddle – hence the name “saddleback.”  The hairy spines located on the both ends of the caterpillar contain poison glands which can cause various skin reactions from local redness and itching to severe reactions requiring immediate medical attention. If the reaction is not severe a piece of adhesive tape can be placed over the spines to aid in their removal. Cold compresses or ice packs will reduce localized swelling along with a paste of baking soda and water applied directly to the site. For people who are highly allergic or have asthma a physician should be contacted immediately.  The caterpillars are not aggressive but we often do not notice them when we are pruning or removing fruit or flowers from plants.  Saddleback caterpillars are not picky about what leaves they chew so do not be surprised to find them on any of your landscape plants. I have found them on my red buckeye and camellias.