North Texas "Tree Asp"?

So this co-worker is telling me about one of our vendors getting sent to the emergency room last week. It seems that he was bitten by a “tree asp” and the reaction became life-threatening within an hour.

“Isn’t that the snake in the pit in Raiders of the Lost Ark? I had no idea that we had asps here,” I said. “Garden snakes, sure, water mocs and rattlers occasionally, but I’d be surprised if I saw an asp.”

“No,” she says, “it’s a tree pest, like a bug. They leave little ball-shaped coccoons about 1/4 inch wide on the underside of leaves. Don’t touch them, or they’ll send you to the emergency room too!”

I’ve seen these little coccoon-like things on the bottoms of leaves, but I never thought they would hurt me. I’m guessing it’s a bug that hatches from the ball that does the actual biting, though I haven’t found any yet.

I’ve been googling and looking over Wikipedia, but I can’t find hide nor hair of these “tree asps” – I’m beginning to suspect that I’ll find them mentioned in the same article as the noble mountain squid and the stoic jackelope.

Does anyone know what the deal is? Am I being whooshed, is there a legitimate concern about these coccoons, and/or can one find “tree asps” in northern Texas?

I grew up on the Texas border in Louisiana and I know roughly what he is talking about. The ones I know of look like super-caterpillars and they are actually quite pretty. They are really big, fat, and hairy and people always told me growing up that they were very poisonous but I never really heard of anyone getting bitten by one. I don’t know of the tree asp in particular but that I probably very similar or the same as what I am describing.

My key words can bring you straight to the info:

This is…disturbingly synchronistic. We currently have an ID this bug… thread in GQ that is probably a puss moth caterpillar, which are called “asps” in Texas. I think we found your answer in a different current GQ thread…

The asps I’m used to seeing are black, not that light green that’s on the linked page. They’ll give you a nasty sting, but probably won’t send you to the emergency room unless you’re allergic to the venom (i.e. your co-worker is overreacting).

Just when I had come to terms with the spiders, snakes and scorpions I find I now have to worry about ugly, toxic caterpillars. What sort of damage can they do to dogs?

Here’s some more info on these critters. They can be very dangerous for those who have a sever allergic reeaction.
adam yax, I could find no warnings or incidents specific to dogs, but I would guess that if a dog ate one it would become very sick!

When I was a wee halfling growing up in Texas, a neighborhood friend of mine was stung by one of these and you would have thought someone had cut her arm off and was beating her with it from the way she wailed.

Asps. Very dangerous. You go first.

Caterpillars. Why did it have to be caterpillars?

Because, obviously, you can’t lick your own weight in wild caterpillars.

And everyone thought the North Texas Mean Green was referring to football.


I KNEW I felt a disturbance in the Force! At first I thought it was because I left the toaster oven on at home, but that feels like a million crumbs falling from a helpless soul in peril, while this premonition felt like a million hands pointing to some guy with an increasingly red face.

Thanks, everyone! The co-worker I had the conversation with handles my paycheck; it’s good to know she isn’t crazy. :wink:

When I was in first grade, I saw one of these fuzzy, cuddly critters on a bench out on the playground one day and decided to touch it or pick it up. It stung me on the end of my thumb.

Now, that was about 45 years ago and I still remember the pain VERY well. It’s worse than anything I think I have ever experienced since. I didn’t have an allergic reaction to it, but I sure wish I had died quickly instead. Much worse than the sting of the scorpions we have down here in South Texas.

I seldom see one around here, but they quickly suffer a quick death when I do. I have always heard them refered to as an asp.

As a child in Dallas County, I was stung several times by scorpions and once by an asp. It would be a toss up as to which was the most painful. The asp just might have a slight edge.

Hey, my alma mater! Go, Mean Green Eagles! Finish respectably!

I’m glad someone asked this. When I was a kid, someone told me not to touch a certain caterpillar because it was an asp. Even then, I recognized the caterpillar as a tussock caterpillar which are harmless, but never heard anything else about these “asps”. I don’t recall ever seeing anything that looks like the pictures in the links, but if I do, I’ll let it be.

I was only six, so I don’t remember the pain, only lying on the leaves and screaming myself hoarse. Dad thought I had gotten snakebit until Mom found the fuzzy red worm I’d stepped on.

They looked it up in the animal encyclopedias we had. A Tree Asp. “Oh shit,” I thought, “it was a snake!”

Silly name for a worm. Could probably give a real asp stinging lessons, though.

I wound up missing a couple of days from school, and the doctor said that I would have to go to the hospital if I stopped breathing. Yeah, no shit, Bub.

Since then, I’ve mostly seen black ones. I squish them. A few have been red. I swish them more.