Animals In Appalachia Appalachia

So What’s a Packsaddle?

Packsaddles hide in the corn and sting you

pack saddle noun A large caterpillar (Sibine stimulea) having a poisonous sting.
1999 Montgomery Coll. (Cardwell).

~Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


Packsaddles sting

A few weeks ago Bill Burnett mentioned packsaddles in a comment he left. In another comment, Quinn said she sure would like to know more about packsaddles since she had never even heard of one.

So I decided to find a packsaddle.

I went out to the corn patch with camera in hand, but as you can see from the photos, I didn’t find a packsaddle. The only things I found were some beans that had been hiding from me way over in the corn, a stink bug, and a couple of bean bugs.

Some folks call packsaddles saddlebacks.

Packsaddles are stinging caterpillars and are often found in the corn patch, although the last time I was stung by one it was while I was picking blueberries.

The sting from a packsaddle is different from a bee sting. A packsaddle sting seems to last longer-I mean the initial sting seems to keep on stinging at the same level. Whereas a bee sting seems to sting like fire and then retreat to a dull throb.

If you’d like to see a packsaddle go here.



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  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    August 12, 2016 at 1:32 am

    If my Dad was still living he would give Jim a good hot debate over the favorite area on the farm for the pack saddle. Dad always claimed they were the “devils stinging pitchforks” put on the “baccer” leaves to make tobacco farmers work that much harder! ha Their disguise will certainly work on a tobacco leaf. Dad said when picking tobacco worms and very tired in the hot morning sun, it was easy to pick off a pack saddle or brush against one! Didn’t take long to start paying attention though he said!
    I’ve met one myownself and hit ain’t no party!
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    June Jolley
    August 10, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    Oh I have had plenty of run-ins with packsaddles, the last one being on a blueberry. I don’t think there is any sting that is so painful. My Northern co-workers call them saddlebacks. Humph. What do they know?

  • Reply
    August 10, 2016 at 4:57 pm

    My gosh! Thanks very much for answering my question, Tipper, but I’m really glad you did NOT find one to take a picture of! Between the pictures you linked to and everyone’s comments here, all the hairs on my arms are standing straight up. Ugh!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 10, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    By the way, that stink bug looks like a scout. It probably has 42 gazillion relatives waiting to invade. Does Brasstown have a SWAT team at the ready?

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    August 10, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    Never saw a caterpillar like that. Hope to never see one too. They are one ugly critter!!!
    Hope everyone’s having a great week, and a safe one too.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    harry adams
    August 10, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    Packsaddles are the reason I kill all caterpillars. I won’t take a chance on getting stung again.

  • Reply
    August 10, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    I remember when I was a kid and grandpa Boots bringing his mare, ole Alice, and a huge sled for us to put up the corn in the Crib. Me and all my brothers didn’t wear our shirts, but daddy did, and he always kept on those long handles underneath his clothes. He hardly ever got stung, but the rest of us sure found out about them blooming Packsaddles soon as we started pulling the corn. Ain’t never figured out how anything could be so pretty, yet hurt so much…Ken

  • Reply
    August 10, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    I’d never heard of these little bugs and from y’all’s descriptions of their sting, I don’t care to make their acquaintance! They are kinda cute in an ugly sort of way and make me think of Dr. Doolittle’s Push-Me-Pull-You (but that was cute in a very cute way!).
    The stings you describe remind me of what we call asps (they look like little tan colored chenille balls or miniature tribles of Star Trek fame). These little devils like to hide in the leaf litter under the live oak trees and can cause a child (and some adults) to wail like a banshee. Duct tape is supposed to help get out those fine stinger hairs (works on prickly pear cactus!) and I’ve heard, but never tried leftover mashed potatoes or mashed raw ginger can give some relief to the sting. I’d love to know if anybody has ever ( or does ever) try any of these remedies on a packsaddle bite.

  • Reply
    August 10, 2016 at 11:40 am


  • Reply
    August 10, 2016 at 10:49 am

    Ohh if you’ve ever stepped on one or accidently touched one you”ll never forget it.. They don’t mess around..

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    August 10, 2016 at 10:23 am

    This is not what I thought. Anyone familiar with a lighter green one that gives a tingling type sting that runs up and down the leg or arm stung?

  • Reply
    Pam Danner
    August 10, 2016 at 9:59 am

    Ewwwwww, I think I had one of those packsaddles on one of my tomato plants. I didn’t know the could sting. I’m happy I didn’t get close enough to find out!

  • Reply
    August 10, 2016 at 9:40 am

    I was stung by a “packsaddle” years ago but didn’t know it’s name till today. It hurt like the dickens and I got a lot of disbelieving looks when I tried to describe it to my family.

  • Reply
    anita griffith
    August 10, 2016 at 9:13 am

    Tipper,I’m planning on going into my silver queen today.Now you have give me the jim jams.I’d rather be stung by a big red wasper.
    Have also heard them called saddlebacks.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 10, 2016 at 9:11 am

    I too have looked for packsaddles without ever finding one but that’s not to say a few haven’t found me. I don’t swell from packsaddle stings like I do waspers and hornets but the pain is worse.

  • Reply
    August 10, 2016 at 9:04 am

    My cousin went on and on about a packsaddle sting. Oddly I had never heard of one, so immediately went to google to identify. I had almost forgotten this when maybe a year later spotted one near the back door. Against my better judgment I captured in a jar to get a closer study, and shared this unusual looking creature with the young’uns. I am not an individual who thinks nuisance creatures are important, and have wondered about some of them like mosquitoes and packsaddles. I am not a catch and release person if it involves a stinger. Needless to say I did not turn the packsaddle loose.
    Something I have wondered about and I cannot find in a google. When I was a young teen some type of wasp, bee flew down from the light on the ceiling and gave me the worst sting ever. It was so bad that it became a discussion for a couple of days. A neighbor said he bet it was a “hickory stinger.” I had never heard of one before or later, and it may have just been a name made up by that country neighbor. I have been stung or bitten by every kind of bug including a trip to ER past a spider bite–never a sting so painful.
    I have noticed most kids sic this ole Granny on spiders and wasps instead of whacking them themselves. Right now there is a wounded yellow jacket I can’t seem to locate in a bedroom.. I learned to do my own whacking at an early age.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    August 10, 2016 at 8:40 am

    I haven’t seen any Packsaddles this year and like Jim this is fine with me. I’m sure that anyone who happens to meet one up close and personal will remember it forever. Many times there will be more than one on the bottom of a corn blade and if you happen to work in your cornfield without a shirt like most young males did as I was growing up you will not see them until several of them announce their presence by dragging across your arm or back. Like Jim said these critters are the spawn of the devil.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    August 10, 2016 at 8:40 am

    Hope none of you all find one, or have them find you. I’ve been stung by them and like Jim once is more than enough. Best defence is long sleeves and long pants.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    August 10, 2016 at 8:07 am

    Yikes! Read this, Tipper: The spines of Acharia stimulea are strong, acutely pointed, and hollow. They embed deeply into tissue and break off, and can interrupt healing as the protoplasm from the venom glands dries into the tissue area (Gilmer 1925). The venom itself can cause a systemic condition called erucism or acute urticaria, for which severe symptoms may include migraines, gastrointestinal symptoms, asthma complications, anaphylactic shock, rupturing of erythrocytes, and hemorrhaging (USAF 1982, Hossler 2009). I have never heard of these, but aren’t they cute little critters? The map that shows where they live shows the part of East Texas where I grew up, but I never saw or heard of one. In West Texas and New Mexico, we have little scorpions that sting like the dickens — it feels like someone jabbed the burning end of a cigarette onto your skin and is twisting it there. But I don’t think
    that scorpion stings are as severe as the packsaddle sounds. Do be careful in the cornfield!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 10, 2016 at 8:00 am

    Tip. I’ve been stung by a packsaddle once and can verify the sting just goes on and on! No matter what I put on it, it didn’t quit till it quit, which was several hours. I don’t ever want that again! I’m very cautious around any hairy creepers.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    August 10, 2016 at 7:59 am

    Tipper–Beware of searching for packsaddles, because you might find one. In my painful personal experience nine times out of ten when you do it is through getting stung. And they don’t just sting with a single “weapon” like a yellow jacket or a hornet. Every one of those little bristles, or stickers, or whatever you call them will sting the bejeebers out of you.
    Packsaddles are disciples of the devil, pain personified, brothers to Beelzebub, and generally bad news. They seem to be most prevalent from this time of year until first frost, and without question their favorite haunts are on corn.
    Like Bill, I’ve had all too many run-ins with these insidious insects, and if I never see another one that will be perfectly fine with me.
    Jim Casada

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