I came across with a stunning article reporting an epidemics of lethal cases of Caterpillar attacks in Southern Brazil, whose peak was between 1989
and 2002, due several environmental imbalance caused by deforestation and urban sprawl. It guessed it very important 'cos I know that many people
don't know, but one these Caterpillar species has a poison stronger than rattlesnakes.
This specific one, the Lonomia obliqua
"Killer-caterpillar", of family Saturnidae
, was responsible by 1.800 accidents in that period, with 6 registered deaths.
In contact with human skin, the poison of Lonomia obliqua
cause a change in blood coagulation called hemorrhagic syndrome. The consequences are
bleeding, dark spots and the bleeding in gums, nose, intestines, urine and even wounds have healed. Without medical attention, the victim can die from
cerebral hemorrhage or acute renal failure. The poison is considered more potent than that of Bothrops, the group of pit vipers, responsible for more
than 90% of accidents with snakes in Brazil.
The genus Lonomia
is neotropical and occurs from Mexico to Argentina. One of Brazilian specialists in this kind of caterpillar is Roberto
Henrique Pinto Moraes, of the Laboratory of Parasitology/Entomology of the Butantan Institut
. He was part of the team of scientists who
investigated the case for Lonomia in 1994, developing the "antilonomic serum"
, made from its own poison. It's unique in the world, produced
only in Brazil and contains antibodies against the toxins of this caterpillar and since its production, have not been more reported cases of death.
Some species live in groups of 70 to 80 individuals, as the Lonomia obliqua
. With deforestation, many species got close to urban areas and
"invade" backyards, gardens and orchards, most often in the south-american summer, between November and March. A good part of caterpillar species
can camouflage, merging with the environment, thanks to stunning patterns of colors and textures - in an attempt to go unnoticed. The camouflage is a
defense against natural predators. There are caterpillars that mimic snakes, with "fake eyes", imitating dangerous or other toxic animals, is called
Despite the fact these animals have no aggressive behavior, the most dangerous species, to humans and natural predators, are the "hairy" kind with
great urticating bristles and the more colorful have the most violent toxin.
The "naked" kind doesn't has bristle-shaped hairs and doesn't inject the toxin within the skin, but has large bulbs that release it on the
surface, after contact.
Bellow, two accidents with caterpillars. In the second case that people got contact with a group of various individuous.
My point here is to call attention to the Gaia Theory
, that alleges that Earth is a conscious living organism and may produce its own
self-defense mechanisms to save itself from the action of destructive parasites (us). Notice that these insects do exist since millions of years but
there's no registers about species with toxins strong enough to kill a person. In the last 20 years, nature suddenly produced this specie... A thing
that makes me go hmmmmmmm....
Extracted from the 2006 biodiversity
, by World Environment Organization (in portuguese)