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Stinging Insects in the South

Updated on January 16, 2018
Marsei profile image

I live in a suburb of New Orleans and have been writing here off and on for 10 years. I have been married 53 years to the same crazy guy.

Buck Moth Caterpillar and Moth

The Sting

Relaxing in the Backyard

When Mercury went retrograde in Scorpio, I had that feeling I get sometimes that something utterly weird and awful would happen to me soon. I was correct.

Joe and I had decided to drink coffee in the backyard, which we don't do often. It was a Saturday afternoon around 2:30, the weather was very pretty and I thought drinking coffee would give me energy to mow the grass, which it was my turn to do. As I picked up a lawn chair to move it into the shade, I felt a distinct sting. At first, I thought it was a wasp, then decided maybe it was a mosquito because it didn't make much of a mark. We finished our coffee. I mowed both the front and backyard. I noticed the sting had begun to swell and hurt a bit and after I took a shower, I put some alcohol on it. By 4:00, it was bright red, had raised bumps inside the bright red, and hurt incredibly. The hurt I could handle. However, as I looked at it, my skin began jumping all around the bite. My husband kept saying it was my pulse, which made not a lot of sense, because it was happening everywhere. It reminded me of that old TV show X Files that I loved, where there was often something trapped under someone's skin!

Emergency Room

Joe wasn't too excited when I suggested the emergency room and kept saying it was just my pulse. Inwardly, I told myself not to let him make me mad, that I needed my strength to obsess about this sting. I sat down, tried deep breathing, tried not thinking about my arm. Every time I looked back it was still twitching about.

So off to Ochsner's emergency room we went. Joe had that "I'll humor her but there's really nothing wrong attitude" that makes me want to slap him silly, but I didn't want to waste energy getting angry.

They saw me rather quickly, especially after I called their attention to the pulsing skin. One of the women taking my information said "Yuk" at least five times. A very nice nurse got me settled in a room and soon Dr. Garcia, a doctor in green scrubs walked in. He was funny and reassuring because he was very laid back and nonchalant, as though this happens every night. He ran a credit card edge over the sting, saying it would get out the stinger if it was left in me. I assume at that point, he believed it was a bee or wasp sting. The nurse began to show him my wrist and the movement all around it. I was expecting him to say: oh, that's . . . whatever. Instead, he said: I have never seen that before in my 30 years of practicing medicine. Those are muscle spasms, but I've never seen it before around the site of a sting like that. We went through the gamut of spiders, caterpillars, scorpions, etc., it could be. I tried to stay calm, but was wondering where I put my living will by this point. It's important because when Joe couldn't bring himself to have our cat put down when we should have, I realized he didn't need to be deciding anything about my healthcare and changed it to where my daughter makes those decisions. I don't want to be on life support until I'm 110 because he can't pull the plug!

The doctor called the national poison line to see what creature causes muscle spasms. He then came back and asked, "Do you mind if I make a video of it?" Really? I mean, seriously, really? More X Files kind of stuff. I told him that was fine as long as it was just my wrist and arm because I looked like something from hell. He proceeded to film my arm jumping about, then ordered a drip of valium and Benadryl. He brought two other doctors in to see my muscles spasm. One of them remarked, "Holy shit." Then they let me be and I got drowsy. He said the black widow works on the muscles and causes spasms in the thighs and back, but he'd never seen spasms at the site. He also ruled out the brown recluse, saying he'd treated those and they don't do it. I asked about snakes and he said he knew snakes and had collaborated on a medical book about them, that it wasn't a snake. Oh, well. I went almost to sleep then, figuring I would live.

Puss Moth Caterpillar (asp)

Going Home

The doc walked past the room I was in every ten minutes or so. Joe read his Lee Child book and tried to stay awake. Before long, I was ready to go home and sat up. When the doctor saw me sitting up, he asked me to let them "observe" me for 15 more minutes. I did and they let me go home. During this time my heart rate, which went to 170 during an A-fib episode last year, never got above 70. The drugs in the drip helped with the pain, but he offered to write a prescription for Tylenol 3. I told him I had Vicodin left from a tooth extraction a month or so before. He said: Good, you may need it, which was a little disheartening. I was hoping not to need anything more, but it didn't work out that way. As soon as I got home, the drip had worn off and I took half of one of the pills. It lasted for about three hours, then around 2:00 a.m., the pain jarred me out of a sound sleep and I took the other half of the pain pill. This went on until my daughter and family came Sunday to watch the Saints game with us as they do almost every weekend. Medication wipes me out and I have little memory of that day.

Our oldest grandson is a Paw-paw's boy and the younger one spends more time with me. He hates football and came back to stay with Grandma. He was making fabulous things with Minecraft on my laptop on one side of the king-sized bed and I was nodding off from drugs on the other. He said, "Grandma, stop going to sleep!" They left after everyone ate and the Saints lost. I'm glad I didn't feel like watching the game. I took the pain pills through the night Sunday and woke up free of pain Monday. By that time, the swelling had started going down a bit and the bite was more defined and looked exactly like the pictures on the Internet of caterpillar bites. Joe even saw a green one on his windshield Monday morning.

I went out very hesitantly into the yard Wednesday to hang the bird feeder back up. The squirrels were getting most of the food and I brought it in for a while. When I went out to rehang it, I was watching everywhere I stepped, everything I brushed against, etc. I probably will for the rest of my life! Whoever thought a bug could cause such a commotion? I think Mercury retrograde in Scorpio has done its worst where I'm concerned, at least I hope this is the end of it.

One of the reasons I'm writing this is to inform everyone that if you are bitten by an insect with a stinger, run a credit card across the bite to be sure the stinger is out. If you are bitten by a caterpillar, put masking tape over the bite, then pull if off to get the spines out that the caterpillar leaves behind. Do it several time to be sure they're all gone. Dr. Garcia at the emergency room said that people would suffer much less if they would just do these two simple things. When left in, the stinger/spine continues to infuse venom. Obviously, he thought at first that it was a spider bite and did the wrong thing! I have also read articles on the Internet about the fact that Scotch tape is not nearly as effective as masking tape for this purpose.

It's very chilly here tonight, supposed to be in the 40s tomorrow morning. I hope it sends the bugs back into the ground where they belong. During the time at the ER, I was in sort of a Zen state, similar to the night of A-fib, and could pretty much watch everything going on from afar. I remember at one point knowing that some of my friends would find it as humorous as I did if I died from a bug bite! After all the twists, turns, and drama of my life, to have finally found peace of mind and relative contentment and then be taken out by a bug would be nothing short of hilarious.

Stung by Something

It's been years since this happened. I still wonder what stung me. It was a bizarre experience, to say the least. All I know is that I never, ever touch anything in the yard without looking where my hand is going first. We don't need a rerun of that day.


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