Hairy Catapillar Attack

 Four days ago (on Saturday 2 June), without realizing at all, I had a contact with the hairy catapillars of Euproctis pseudoconspersa (tea tussock moth; chadokuga in Japanese) in Kamakura. On the evening, I had a sore throat, and I was not feeling well. So I rushed home by an express train on the following (Sunday) morning. In the morning of Monday 4 June, I noticed that my entire legs and hands were covered by large red spots (rash), and I went to a medical clinic on our campus. I was diagnosed to have an indirect contact with the catapillars, and have a terrible allergic reaction. So I have not been to gym over the past few days, as I do not want to expose my legs with terrible rash, though it is not contageous at all. The sympton will reportedly last for 1 to 3 weeks.


  Tea tussock moth is one of few poisonous moths in central to eastern Japan, and their catapillars come out twice a year (e.g., May-June, and August-September).  Just like the above video, these catapillars cover leaves of certain kinds of trees (camellia, tea tree, etc.), and shed their hairs which are poisonous. These hairs are blown by wind, and often settle on clothes or sheets which are hung outdoor for drying. Apparently, while I was staying at a guest house in Kamakura, I had a contact with the sheets infested with the catapillar hairs. This explains why only my legs and hands (not arms) have been densely populated with rash. I seem to be the only person who had the allergic reactions while staying at the hostel last weekend, so I am probably more sensitive to the catapillar poisons. This may be because I am from Kyushu Island in the southwestern Japan and lived in the UK/US/Canada for 15 years before moving to Kanto (Tokyo and surrounding) area. I am a bit disappointed that I do not have an antibody to this hairy catapillar's poison.


  It was very first time for me to get to know this catapillar or the moth. I have never seen them before. Today one of my colleagues (botany professor) has told me that these bugs are not uncommon in Kanto, but are restricted to the areas where the catapillars are protected from their predetors (birds, etc.) or sea breeze. This explains why they are more commonly encountered in the city, or yards of the residential areas, but not in the rural area. For example, the above video was taken in Ueno Park in Tokyo by the person who discovered the poisonous catapillars for warning. Thanks for posting the video - I learnt a lot.




Posted on Wednesday 6 June 2012