Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Beware the Packsaddle Worm!

Today I got stung by a packsaddle worm. 

Here's a picture (I didn't take it; it's from a website):

It's been a while since I've had the "stingin' worm" experience.  Years ago, I used to get stung pretty frequently while looking at my corn patch.  I could never see the bug that got me.  Finally somebody told me that there were these almost invisible bugs in corn that sting very badly, called packsaddles or stinging worms. 

I forgot about them, though, because for years it didn't happen to me. Then it did, today.  I wonder why the stinging worms came back.  Maybe it's because we've had such a wet, hot year.  Today I researched the packsaddle worm online and found out that their scientific name is Acharea stimulea.  Presumably "stimulea" means "it hurts."

A PBS site about American words supplied some quotations illustrating the use of the word "packsaddle," rather like the OED does:

From 1884:   "I wonder if Harris ever saw a pack saddle. Well, its as putty as a rainbow, just like most all of the devil ' s contrivances, and when you crowd one of em on a fodderblade you ' d think that forty yaller jackets had stung you all in a bunch. "

From 1925 Dargan Highland Annals:   "You said I must git another big mess ' fore the frost struck ' em heavy, an ' that field was plum full o ' pack-saddlers. One stung me ever ' time I laid my hand on a roas ' in ' year. Hit hurts worse ' n a hornet fer a minute, an ' it ' s harder on a body ' s temper than a hornet is."

It does hurt pretty much like a hornet for a minute, but then it stops hurting; however, the little swollen bites remain.

Anyway, if you have a corn patch, don't let little kids go in there, and if you go in yourself, wear long sleeves and/or gloves. 


  1. Wuss, try getting stung by a cow killer ant or also known as the red velvet ant.

    1. Which is not even an ant. They are a wingless wasp!

  2. I was mowing my yard and got close to a tree limb that was hanging down. Then all of a sudden it felt like i had rum into a wasp nest. My whole right arm felt like I had venom running through it. I live in east/central KY, and have been stung by may things and this was as bad as anything and even worse cause it got me in about 6 different places. I didnt have a shirt on so I stopped the mower and rsn in the house. Not knowing what had happened i got a wet wash rag and washed my arm off. I was almost in tears. But it eased up and my son and I went outside to investigate. Sure enough on the right side of the mower I saw what I now know to be a pack saddle worm.. I instantly knew thats what had gotten me cause u could see the little red hairs and even though i had never seen or heard of them in my 31 years it just looked like something u would not want to touch. I hope I NEVER SEE ONE AGAIN.

  3. some friends of mine and I found one of these on a leaf. we did not get stung but had no clue what it was.
    we made pictures of it

  4. I was out mowing a clients yard one day and all of a sudden felt my arm burning like crazy and i had no clue what had got me till i searched the tree i brushed against. Sure enough, on of these suckers had my whole shoulder blistered up badly. Wouldnt wish this upon anybody