Ghosts, ghouls, and goblins are eating candy corn…horror movies haunt our television set…it must be Halloween. Put on your hockey mask— we’re gonna scurry down the sidewalk and take a closer look at nature’s miniature maniacs.
Bite-sized Monster: “Poisonous” caterpillar (banded tussock or American dagger moth)
Beauty is in the Hair of the Caterpillar
Wait…don’t pet that caterpillar. See those yellow hairs? The caterpillar is saying, ” Try to eat me and you’ll regret it. Hopefully.” The hairs are infused with scrumptious poison, so if a gluttonous bird decides to eat the caterpillar, it will get a tummy ache.
If you see this Bite-sized Monster in your candy bag, don’t eat it.
These particular caterpillars have been known to cause localized skin irritation and other allergic reactions. Are these types of caterpillars really dangerous? Well…kind of. Maybe. The amount of poison is minimal, however, these caterpillars can possibly make you beg for mercy. Look closer and you’ll see that the hairs are barbed. Poisonous hair appears a tad bit more menacing when viewed up-close…but don’t get too close. The barbs are able to jam into your soft tissue, ensuring you keep paying for the close encounter. Think of it as a painful gift that keeps on giving, especially if you’re allergic.
American dagger moth caterpillars are often confused with banded tussock caterpillars because of their similar characteristics. Both caterpillars have stylish hairstyles that feature a distinct, yellowish tint. American dagger moth caterpillars have subtle features that are not featured on banded tussock caterpillars.
In case you’re not paying attention, never trust a caterpillar.
Bite-size Monster: Crab Spider
You think Michael Myers was a scary slasher? Better go hide underneath your bedsheets.
Crab spiders tossed out the Arachnid Rulebook. These spiders don’t weave webs and have no desire to actively hunt for victims. Crab spiders wait until a delectable victim gets a little to close, and then they’ll wait a little longer. When you think they’re done waiting, they’ll wait a few more minutes, and that’s precisely why they’re so damn deadly. Patience is a virtue, or in this case, patience is death.
Imagine if, during the entire flick, Michael Myers stood in the same spot and waited until his victims meandered onto a specific plank of wood. Would that be a boring movie? Yup, and that’s why crab spiders are psychopaths. Not only do crab spiders kill plenty of victims, but they also kill plenty of time. Crab spiders change their color as if it were cheap wallpaper, and they’ll loiter around the joint until they decide to ambush their victims.
If you see this Bite-size Monster, it’s too late.
Bite-size Monster: Meadowhawk Dragonfly
Eye See You
Dragonflies see everything, and that shouldn’t be surprising, because their eyes take up their entire head. Unlike dragons of fictional lore—dragonflies enjoy at least a 95% kill rate. If they can see it, they can kill it. Their ability to lock-on to a fast-moving target may seem like a fantastical ability, but that’s how they keep their mouth full of helpless victims. Imagine what would happen if a knight in shining armor had to slay one of these dragons. Speaking of dragons, these Bite-sized Monsters have a sophisticated way of flying. The unique dynamics of their wings allow them to fly backward, upside down, and probably diagonally. Have you ever seen a fire-breathing dragon do that? Exactly.
Not only can these Bite-sized Monsters fly backward—they can almost see directly behind their own head. Can a fire-breathing dragon do that? Nope, of course not.
Dragonflies live part of their fun lives underwater, and, just like a cursed werewolf, they transform into a seemingly different entity when conditions are right. Adult dragonflies have a short lifespan, so it all equals out.
Bite-size Monster: Treehopper
To Jump, or Not to Jump, that is the Question
Not all Bite-size Monsters are deadly. Some are just straight-up strange, just like this certified weirdo. Somewhat inconspicuous—treehoppers loiter on plant stems and pretend to be something they’re not. That “something” is usually a leaf. Apparently. When scared for their life, treehoppers leap into the air and hope to crashland somewhere safe—a tactic that’s been working for at least 100 million years.
There are a variety of different flavors of treehopper: vanilla, mint chocolate chip…even Rocky Road. If you want to see a gallery of different types of treehoppers, feel free to click here and peruse this article (Smithsonian Insider).
If this Bite-sized Monster bugs you too much, that’s going to be a problem. Treehoppers can almost be found everywhere on planet Earth. The next time you look at a tiny leaf, take a closer look…it might be looking at you, too.
Bite-size Monster: Sycamore Assassin Bug
Tiny But Deadly
Sure. Jason Voorhees killed plenty of people who were trying to have a good time, but he wasn’t too subtle. Sure. Some of the executions were somewhat stealthy, but you can tell the victim was murdered, right? Imagine a monster that kills its victims, and its prey doesn’t even realize it’s gonna bite the big one. Assassin bugs are natural serial killers, and if they were a tiny bit bigger, they would try to kill us, too. Ambush bugs are kind of like Jason…if Jason so happened to be very patient and had a knife-straw protruding from his hockey mask. Ambush bugs keep a sharp proboscis tucked underneath their head, which they use to stab delicious bees or anything else too slow to realize it’s about to die.
Much like crab spiders, Assassin bugs pick a comfy flower and wait until something tasty gets too close. They use their proboscis to inject a specialized toxin which transforms their meal into a slurpy. These Bite-sized Monsters are also hellbent on hurting people and may transfer fun gifts, like Chagas disease, for example. Kissing bugs (a type of assassin bug) ripped a few pages out of Nosferatu’s book, too. These creepy vampires stalk people as they sleep, and then extract a blood meal from a region near their mouth (or eyes). Don’t worry. You won’t feel anything. Sleep tight.
If you find this Bite-size Monster sitting on your Twix bar, just put it down and retreat. Fast.
Grab a bucket of candy corn. Stab the play button. You won’t regret it. Promise.
You may have to keep an eye out while camping near a lake, but at least you never have to worry about getting Chagas disease during a close encounter with Jason Voorhees. If you need to run away from Freddy, don’t fall asleep. Simple.
We’re living inside a horror movie called Nature, and it can never be turned off.
Beware of the monsters.
Photography / Image Credit