Spiny Oak Slug

Dude! Dude! Check this guy out!


I’m a Spiny Oak Slug! If you touch me, you will regret it!

Happened to be looking in exactly the right spot while building my swale and went “Wait a minute, that’s not a normal leaf…”

This is Euclea delphinii. He will turn into a brown moth with big green spots on his wings.

While trying to learn more about him, I ran smack into the wall of our vast ignorance. He probably eats oak. Probably. Maybe some other stuff. Nobody’s sure. And I literally cannot tell you if they are as common as dirt or desperately endangered, because their conservation status has never been evaluated. (My guess is that they are reasonably common because—well, obviously, I’m seeing one! And there are plenty of sightings on the various websites about bugs.)

We do know that they sting, and if you put your hand on one, you will need to use scotch tape to extract the spines from your skin. And if you’re very unlucky, you will have an allergic reaction and need to head to the hospital or at least load up on Benadryl.

Still, this kinda thing honestly freaks me out a little. That there are things so common that they are in my garden—and yet, we know almost nothing about them. Do they need to be protected? Can they live in cities? How far do they travel? What all do they eat?

Well, a new one for the yardlist, anyhow. So that’s something.


  • Peter Dawson says:

    I thought Australia had cornered all the crazy poisonous animals, but you seem to be able to find some unique ones of your own quite readily.

    An interesting looking beastie, that’s for sure…

  • Tom West says:

    I remember a story about a biologist who took a cubic foot of dirt form her back garden, and then carefully catalogued everything she found. It included many new species… there is a wodnerful amount we don’t know about our natural world 🙂

  • Wolf Lahti says:

    If Pliny the Younger ever encountered a Spiny Oak Slug, he would have written a complete natural history of them, based on what most of his natural histories were based upon – which is essentially nothing but his imagination. People would then *think* they knew a lot about them, which is much worse than knowing they don’t know.

    So we’re better off not knowing. Or something.

  • Paul says:

    Tom: one way they do surveys these days is to grind up a sample and look at the DNA. This is even a fast way to survey insect populations, since DNA can be looked up automatically in databases but insect specimens require experts. Trap insects, make insect puree, sequence DNA fragments.

    They also find huge numbers of new bacteria species this way. Most bacteria, it would seem, cannot currently be cultured, requiring unknown conditions in order to grow.