Living With Toxic Hairs

Lonomia obliqua

Lonomia obliqua

Caterpillars with hairs or spines should be approached cautiously because they can release toxins that damage skin or cause allergic responses. Many caterpillars have glands in the epidermis that produce these toxins. The Brazilian caterpillar, Lonomia obliqua, causes mild burning pain in most people, but can cause more severe symptoms. This caterpillar lacks epidermal glands, but other related caterpillars have been found to have toxin gland cells within the spine itself.

A group of scientists* investigated these hairs to search for the source of the poison. The spines produced two types of liquids: a green secretion similar to hemolymph and an orange secretion. They found that some, but not all spines contain a specialized glandular cell that presumably produces the toxic orange secretion. Like other related caterpillars, Lonomia obliqua does indeed have poison gland cells, but the cell are located in the spines themselves and not in the adjacent epidermis.

*Diva Denelle Spadacci-Morena, Magna Aparecida Maltauro Soares,
Roberto Henrique Pinto Moraes, Ida Sigueko Sano-Martins & Juliana Mozer Sciani. The urticating apparatus in the caterpillar of Lonomia obliqua. Toxicon 119 (2016) 218e224.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in Biomaterials, by jjneal, Environment, Health. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Living With Toxic Hairs

  1. Pingback: Living With Toxic Hairs – Entomo Planet

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