Think of all the poisonous creatures we DON'T have in this country, and then be thankful. For example, if you've ever done any reading about poison dart frogs, you'll be mighty relieved they are in Central and South America. They're beautiful, but they will drop you like a hot rock.

I single out frogs because here in the U.S., we don't think about frogs as being poisonous. We're well aware of the dangers surrounding certain species of spiders, snakes, and ants. And I don't think there IS a scorpion that isn't bad news. But frogs? They're just supposed to be fun.


And moths are just supposed to hang out by the nearest light source and eat our clothes. Sure that's a pain in the butt, but hardly painFUL. But that's if we're talking about run-of-the-mill, everyday moths.

If we're talking about the strikingly beautiful (at least I think they are) grapeleaf skeletonizer moth, well that's a different story.

Looks harmless, right? Well, just wait.


The pesky little creatures have made news lately by wreaking havoc on grapevines in Napa Valley, and wreaking havoc on grapevines in wine country is cause for alarm; that's big business, needless to say. The subspecies in question is the western grapeleaf skeletonizer, which is quite a mouthful.

Yes, these unusual moths are no good for crops, but they're no good for our skin, either. And while the headlines are about western species, know that other types of grapeleaf skeletonizers (that's not just a mouthful; I'm pretty tired of typing it) are found elsewhere, including the eastern United States and, in fact, have been discovered in Kentucky.


And if you have grapevines, you're probably way ahead of me. If you do but are NOT familiar with what to do about these moths, check this out...


If you thought you were going to get through your day without reading about "larval stages," you were wrong. The grapeleaf skeletonizer has five such stages, with the final two being the ones with which we need to be aware, because that's when the black spines come out. First of all, while grapeleaf skeletonizers are poisonous, they aren't on the level of, say, black widows or fire ants. But they do leave uncomfortable welts on the skin after you've been stung. The poison comes from those spines.

Now this guy--the Capital Naturalist--refers to one as a "wasp mimic," and, as you'll see, it's enjoying a shaft of goldenrod, and we have plenty of that stuff in Kentucky; that's for sure.

Again, their appearance is fascinating and so is the movement. And if I saw one, I wouldn't think it was a moth. That might be a good thing because I'd be a little more vigilant about being careful.

But as we've said so many times when we discover insects we didn't know were among us, the WARM MONTHS are upon us and so, too, are who knows HOW many creatures that could make for an unpleasant encounter.

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