NC State Extension Publications

Description and Biology

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The stinging rose caterpillar, Parasa indetermina, is in a family of stinging caterpillars. The fully grown caterpillar is slightly less than an inch long, but causes a sting way out of proportion to its size! This caterpillar has seven pairs of spine-covered “horns” as well as smaller spiny bumps along each side. Each spine is hollow and filled with a urticating fluid. When the spine brushes against human skin, the tip breaks off and releases the offending fluid, which causes a painful sting. That spot eventually swells and remains painful for hours or days. The stinging rose caterpillar also has white, black, orange and red lines running along the back and sides. Female and male moths emerge in mid summer, mate, and females lay eggs from which tiny caterpillars hatch. The moths are green with brown patches on the wings. As the caterpillars feed, molt, and grow they usually hide on the lower surface of their host plant leaves. In later summer, each caterpillar spins a tough brown capsule-like cocoon inside of which they spend the fall, winter, and spring. Sometime during that time the caterpillar molts into a pupa from which the moth develops.

stinging rose caterpillar

The stinging rose caterpillar is colorful and dangerous.

stinging rose caterpillar

Stining rose caterpillar "horns" are covered with stinging hairs filled with an urticating fluid.

Stinging rose caterpillar moth

Stinging rose caterpillar moths are green with brown markings.

Host Plants

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Stinging rose caterpillars feed on apple, bayberry, cherry, chestnut, dogwood, hickory, maple, oak, paw paw, pear, plum, poplar, and rose. Although they have a broad host range, this is a somewhat rare species.

Residential Recommendations

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Since stinging rose caterpillars are relatively rare, perhaps the best control is to dislodge the insect and trample it under foot. Most insecticides labeled for landscape use should give more than adequate control during the growing season.


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For assistance with a specific problem, contact your local Cooperative Extension Center.

This Factsheet has not been peer reviewed.


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Publication date: April 11, 2016
Revised: Oct. 15, 2019

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