B.C. baby who put spiny caterpillar in mouth recovering well after treatment

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Krystal Dawn Pavan says her eight-month-old daughter Kenzie, shown in a handout photo, is recovering after putting a venomous caterpillar in her mouth in their Nanaimo, B.C., backyard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Krystal Dawn Pavan

An eight-month-old baby who put a spiny caterpillar in her mouth between munching on cookies is recovering in Nanaimo, B.C.

Krystal Dawn Pavan said she and her daughter Kenzie Pyne were on their back deck when she started wailing last Thursday.

Pavan said she assumed her daughter was cranky about nap time, until she tried to give her a bottle and noticed black marks in her mouth that looked like electrical burns.

She rushed Kenzie to hospital, where doctors and nurses determined it was a caterpillar.

“This caterpillar must have crawled out from my patio chair or something while she was sitting in front of me playing, decided to pick it up and pop it in her mouth,” Pavan told The Canadian Press in a Facebook message. “She was eating an Arrowroot cookie at the time so I didn’t notice any other objects around for her to possibly get a hold of.”

Kenzie was transferred to a hospital in Victoria, where she was sedated so doctors could pluck the spines from her tongue and the inside of her cheek, she said.

The little girl is back in high spirits and recovering well, Pavan said.

She believes the caterpillar was a silver-spotted tiger moth, which has stinging hairs that can cause a burning sensation or rash in sensitive people.

Claudia Copley, entomology collections manager for the Royal B.C. Museum, said she couldn’t confirm the species but that wooly caterpillars have spines to deter predators from eating them.

“I know when you’re a baby you can’t help it, but this is a very unusual circumstance,” she said.

In about 20 years of entomology work, Copley said she has never heard of a wooly caterpillar harming anyone, adding they can typically walk along someone’s finger without issues because they aren’t threatened.

Copley gets lots of queries at this time of year about silver-spotted tiger moth caterpillars, which people notice because of their eyes, their large size and bright colours.

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