Assassin Caterpillar

by Ann Bartkowski

“You know how assassin caterpillars kill you by making you bleed from all the holes in your body…like your nose and ears and eyes? Well, where specifically in the eyeball does the blood come out of when you bleed to death?”

This is the question I was asked yesterday by an inquisitive elementary school student while I was dissecting a cow eye ball for his class.

Every time I dissect an eyeball I expect the “normal” questions (“Where did you get the eyeball?”) and have an idea of how to answer these queries (“I’m a ninja who steals them from cows each night”…kidding…”Butchers give them to us because some people love to eat meatballs but not eyeballs”). But this I was not prepared for. I had never heard of assassin caterpillars and sometimes it’s strange to be put in the position of explaining to little kids why bleeding can cause death. 

Questions like this, however, are my favorite, as they knock me out of my comfort zone, make me think on my feet, pique my curiosity to do further research, and expand my mind to new ideas. Here’s a great article on these caterpillars that contain a powerful toxin with “anticoagulant properties currently being explored by the pharmaceutical industry for use in human blood clotting problems”.