Caterpillars Kenya

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Hairy Caterpillar

***** Location: Kenya
***** Season: Hot dry season
***** Category: Animal


Hairy caterpillars, during the hot dry season, when they have not yet matured into butterflies or moths, venture into our houses, we know not why, sometimes in considerable numbers, but each moving about independently of the others. We may then come across them in unexpected places, in the kitchen or even on our beds.

If we notice them, we do not touch them -- but we may be unlucky if they escape our notice. Their hairs have the ability to enter our skin and break off there, causing highly allergic reactions and even inflammations. No animal will eat them, so far as we know. The hairy skins, even when shed, keep their ability to cause skin irritations when touched.

They do not seem to eat things in the house, so their desire to come and join us, remains a puzzle. Many evenings have their moments of scooping up the black beasts, which shape themselves into perfect circles as they are transported out on the dustpan and thrown over the garden wall...

The caterpillars are most often black, white, or grey. It is the black one which come into the house -- the grey ones like to eat the geranium leaves in my garden. They are smaller and less beautiful, but much more visibly active.

I have not yet managed to work out which caterpillar becomes which butterfly. Most Kenyan butterflies are extremely beautiful, so one develops a certain amount of compassion for the caterpillars...

Isabelle Prondzynski

This photograph resembles the caterpillars that enjoy my geraniums :

© 2002 Troy Bartlett
Pale Tussock Moth Caterpillar, Halysidota tessellaris


Great collection of pictures :


Nuisance bugs of Laikipia (Kenya)
by Truman Young

Hairy caterpillars are the larvae of several species of tiger moths. They all look softly hairy, like a cashmere sweater. Unfortunately, many of these hairs are sharp, brittle, and irritant. Even a casual touch (I am sure the caterpillar would disagree) can result in dozens of hairs penetrating the skin. Not actually dangerous, but I have seen a bad reaction to them. When they are about, check your bedding, towels, clothes and shoes before use.

In some years, the all-black ones invade homes. The year 2001 will be remembered in our Segera house as the year of the hairy caterpillars. [Mpala was largely exempt, perhaps because there are no gardens around the buildings.] In the bush, one finds a pretty black and orange striped species, or one that is all black except the orange head. But the one that invades homes is entirely black. I think they are attracted to irrigated gardens.

On one memorable evening, I removed 40 of these little devils from our house. A few days later, I awoke to find one crawling on my pillow, inches from my face. Over a six-week period, I had a dozen "hits" and literally hundreds of hairs implanted. The ones we couldn't remove just worked their way into our flesh, and disappeared, often leaving a mean itch. However, one did fester and cause my finger to swell up considerably. I shook three hairy caterpillars out of my son's shoe this morning.

A nasty story: Keith Lindsay, a friend of ours, was doing his doctoral work in Amboseli back in the early 1980s. One evening while he was sleeping, one if these caterpillars dropped on his eyelid. His friends spent a long time gently tweezing out as many of the hairs as they could find, but the hairs are very brittle and many had broken off at skin level. His eyelid itched a bit, but he seemed OK. A few days later, he began to feel a different kind of itching in his eye. It felt like something was scratching his eyeball. The remaining hairs had worked their way down through the eyelid, and were now coming out the inner side! So now the job was to periodically peel the eyelid back, and tweeze these hairs out as they appeared. This is a true story.


You burrowed into my heart like a hairy caterpillar,
I couldn't t stop you, I've got no insect killer
But hairy caterpillars become butterflies
Now I've those in my stomach when you are nearby!!


Written by Maria Knight



Certain moth caterpillars are covered in hairs so that they look soft and furry, they are common worldwide, but only the South American species are really noxious. Children may find these miniature moving teddies attractive and wish to pick them up. When a child picks up such a caterpillar, falls on one, brushes against one or one gets inside the clothing; the "hairs"
penetrate the skin and cause pain and irritation.


Have a look at the beautiful -- and exciting! -- photographs on the web site given below. These photos are copyrighted, please do not take them for your own website.

The one on the first link most closely resembles those unidentified black hairy caterpillars which visit our Kenyan homes during those hot dry months :

And a whole lot more are here :

Worldwide use

Caterpillars, a worldwide KIGO

Things found on the way


hairy caterpillar --
five fingers stretch out to touch
that black fleece

Isabelle Prondzynski


Short summer night.
A dewdrop
On the back of a hairy caterpillar.

Buson Yosa (1716 ~ 1783)


that one time
my heart so merciless
I burned a hairy caterpillar

Masajo Suzuki


Would that I could learn. . .
From hairy caterpillar
To colored butterfly.


Related words

***** Caterpillars, a worldwide KIGO

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Gabi Greve / Isabelle Prondzynski
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My 6 year old son, just today had an encounter with the hairy caterpillar. It crawled up inside his pant leg and soon enough he had an itch with lots of pain. It got to the outer thigh. Hairs were embeded and red spots all over. Too small to remove, plus they would break off. He's not doing to bad now (6 hours later) but I checked his leg and he does have bruising. Almost like getting stung by a jellyfish!