Spiny caterpillars invade New Orleans – every year

By Gary D. Myers

(This is a reprint of an article I wrote for the NOBTS Gatekeeper in 2009. Hope you enjoy it. Special thanks to Frank for the excellent headline and photo).

If termites, tropical storms, humidity, hurricanes and occasional, crippling two-inch snows (once every 30 years) are not enough to keep one vigilant in New Orleans, one other foe may do so – the buck moth caterpillar. These caterpillars have one nasty sting.

This time each year, thousands of buck moth caterpillars descend on New Orleans. Parents should warn children to stay away from all caterpillars to avoid a very painful sting. Many children from New Orleans can attest to the pain involved with their sting.

The buck moth caterpillar is primarily brown or dark green with small white spots. They have pronounced spiny, hair-like projections over the body. The caterpillars are typically found near oak trees – the most abundant tree species in New Orleans.

The following statement on buck moth caterpillars is taken from a bulletin produced by Virginia Tech University:

“The poisonous hairs or spines are hollow and connected to underlying poison glands. Contact with them causes a burning sensation and inflammation that can be as painful as a bee sting. The irritation can last for a day or two and may be accompanied by nausea during the first few hours.”

The Virginia Tech bulletin offers the following advice for treating the sting:

“A person ‘stung’ by a poisonous caterpillar should immediately wash the affected area to remove any insect hairs and poison that remain. An ice pack will help reduce swelling, and creams and lotions containing steroids will lessen the discomfort and promote healing. Persons known to be sensitive to insect stings should consult a physician.”

One local expert on the buck moth caterpillar is Jonathan, an eight-year-old Gentilly resident. Jonathan had a recent encounter with a buck moth caterpillar that resulted in nasty stings on the arm and on the leg.

“It was a brown, furry one,” Jonathan said. “There are signs all over the zoo that say ‘watch out for stinging caterpillars.””

“My arm had lots of dots,” he said.

According to Jonathan, the sting felt similar to that of a wasp. It left a series of red welts on his arm and leg. And while the discomfort was gone after a few days, the bumps were visible for almost a week. His advice to other children “not to grab caterpillars.”

The good news is that these caterpillars will soon be moths. The bad news, they will be moth


Editor’s note: We are happy to publish a poem by Becky Brown this week. Brown lived, studied and ministered in New Orleans for a number years and makes frequent trips to the Crescent City. You can learn about Brown and her ministry at http://www.littlebrownlight.com.


He was the chosen, promised son.
“Laughter” was his name.
His faithful father, Abraham,
knew the call that came:

“Take your son, your only son
…I know your love is strong…
take him to Moriah.
You must go along.”

“You must sacrifice him there.
I will show you where.”
They arose and followed Him
side-by-side with care.

A man of faith, a precious son,
a long and lonely road.
The hill of sorrow…no tomorrow…
the final setting sun.

Three long days and two dark nights.
This was a journey without joy.
The servants waiting down the hill
behold the man and the boy.

The two walked on together.
They rarely were apart.
The wood was placed upon the son…
a burden on his father’s heart.

The altar was prepared.
The fire and the knife in hand.
The son of promise questioning,
“My Lord, where is the lamb?”

“God will Himself provide today
a lamb for you, my son.”
He bound him up and laid him down.
He knew the time had come.

First the blood and then the fire.
The man stretched out his hand.
Isaac feels eternity.
He did not speak again.

An angel called to Abraham
the faithful: “Here I am!”
“Spare your son, your covenant son!
The Lord provides a ram!”


He was the chosen, promised One.
“Sorrows” was His name.
The Lord of all spoke the word
and gave the call that came.

He sent His one and only Son
begotten of His love
to walk the road to Calvary
to walk that road alone.

“Die upon the mountain.
I will lead you there.”
He set His heart to follow.
He gave His life to share.

The Father’s love for all the world.
The ever faithful Son.
The hill of death, the final breath.
The journey had begun.

Praying in the garden,
“Father not My will!”
while He was dying for disciples
sleeping down the hill.

An angel held Him close
for He now must walk alone.
The cross He took was His to bear
for sinners to atone.

The flesh upon His back was torn.
There were nails in His feet and hands.
His royal crown was made of thorns.
He knew He was the Lamb.

He gave Himself away that day
under a black Golgotha sky.
A hill, a cross for sinners lost.
This time, the Son would die.

He shed His blood and gave His life
when He stretched out His hands
He opened up eternity.
He died to live again.

Jehovah God and Abraham
…two fathers and their sons…
Moriah’s man was spared to show
what Calvary’s Lamb has won.

The promise of Messiah
was made upon Moriah.
The father of all faithfulness
would give his son to die.

In freedom, Isaac would walk away
for in his place a ram that day
would shed its blood and give its life
as the provision of a sacrifice.

This son of laughter filled with joy
down the mountain man and boy
would walk away redeemed and free
in three days home again.

The picture of God’s love for me
was drawn on top of Calvary.
The Father of salvation
gave His Son to die.

In freedom I could walk away
for in my place The Lamb that day
shed His blood and gave His life.
Jesus was the perfect sacrifice.

The Man of Sorrows took my pain.
On the hill He bore my shame
Carried away He died for me.
Three days lived again!

The true joy of the laughter of Isaac is found when we discover that we also have been spared by the death of The Lamb not spared.  May we experience the anguish of the uphill journey of Jesus so that we may truly appreciate the gift of the downhill reprieve of Isaac.  Jesus died in my place.  I will never totally understand why, but I will always be grateful.  His life for mine.  My life for His service.

*God asked Abraham to do the unthinkable thing…and he was willing to do it.

*God sent him to the unknown place…and he was willing to go.

*God saw his unwavering faith…and it remained unshaken.

*God honored his undaunted obedience…the knife was raised when he heard his name.

*God provided the unparalleled reprieve…Isaac was spared.

*God gave the unspeakable gift…His only Son, the Lamb not spared!

Becky Brown

Blue Mountain, Mississippi

Dad’s Desk


November 29, 1998

Holy Week: The Weight of Sin and the Joy of Salvation

By Gary D. Myers

Growing up I didn’t often think about Holy Week or Passion Week as a whole. Yes, my church taught about Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, Good Friday and especially Easter/Resurrection Sunday. I took in the pieces and parts, however I never quite connected it all together.

That should be expected. I grew up in a Baptist church. We did not follow the liturgical calendar. This is not a critique. Our primary focus was squarely on the Jesus’ death and resurrection and the need of every person — salvation. And that is a great place to camp out … the resurrection is the central event of the New Testament and all of human history.

As I read the Bible in high school and college, I often gravitated to the Gospel of John. Still, I never noticed exactly how much attention John devotes to Jesus’ final week. Eight of the Gospel’s 21 chapters focus on Holy Week. This was the most valuable thing I discovered during a Bible course at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. The other two things I learned: don’t take a Bible course at a state university and don’t expect the title of the course to be binding (the course was called “The 23rd Psalm,” but our major writing project was on the Gospel of John).

It wasn’t until I moved to Pittsburgh, Pa., that I began to see the value in viewing Holy Week as a unit. During my three years as a campus minister at Pitt, I often had a chance to fellowship with other campus ministers who were much better acquainted with Holy Week – conservative Presbyterians, Baptists of other stripes, and a Catholic priest who had a dynamic, growing relationship with Christ.

My first year, I watched, asked questions and learned. Most of these campus ministers participated in numerous religious (ritual) events during Holy Week. I do not mean to imply that all ritual is bad or negative. I am convinced that the value of any ritual depends on what an individual brings to that ritual. If an individual uses a ritual to focus on Jesus Christ, then that ritual takes on a deep personal meaning.

Even with all the activity, Each of these men took time to focus on his own spiritual walk in a very personal way – almost separate from or in spite of all the religious ritual. Now I did not want more religious activity, but I did want a deeper relationship with Christ.

My second year at Pitt, I read through the accounts of Jesus’ last week. I tried to match the events day for day. On Palm Sunday, I read about the Triumphal Entry and so forth. Taking in Holy Week in this way was very helpful. The Resurrection has always inspired me, but I learned to dwell a little longer on the ugliness of the cross. One is meaningless without the other. I grew in knowledge, understanding and faith.

Moving to the Gulf Coast and then on to New Orleans added another layer of focus around the Easter event. It is difficult to miss the beginning of the Lenten season here. For Catholics, Lent starts on Ash Wednesday when they receive a cross-shaped smudge of ashes on their foreheads. My understanding is that the ashes symbolize confession of and repentance from sin. Common practice during the 46 days of Lent involves prayer, repentance and self-denial (giving something up).

Again, though I am not seeking additional religious activity, I do find value in Lent – at least my own version of Lent. So this year I gave something up, something that is not wrong or harmful. However, each time I think about this thing, it reminds me to focus attention on God and what Jesus did on my behalf.

Certainly there are other ways to grow closer to Christ while focusing on the meaning and purpose of Easter. However, taking in Holy Week as a whole, reading through the final week of Jesus’ life each Easter and fasting during Lent has helped me grow. Doing so helps me:

  • realize the humanity and the divinity of Jesus,
  • grieve over the weight of my sin and continue a practice of self-examination,
  • contemplate the price of our salvation,
  • rejoice and worship the risen Savior,
  • remember my first love,
  • identify with a wider Christian Community and experience ancient Christian practice.

Suggested Holy Week Reading Plan

Sunday, April 17 – John 12:1-11

Monday, April 18 – John 12:12-19

Tuesday, April 19 – John 12:20-36

Wednesday, April 20 – John 15:1-27; 16:1-16

Thursday, April 21 – John 13:1-35; 17:1-25

Friday, April 22 – John 18:1-40; 19:1-37

Saturday, April 23 – John 19:38-42

Sunday, April 24 – John 20:1-23; 21:1-25

Eat. More. Seafood.

By Frank Michael McCormack

On my list of dream jobs, commercial fishing is near the top. It’s not because I have experience commercial fishing. If I did, it might not still be on my list. I’m afraid I might not be tough enough. But until I know any better, fishing will remain near the top.

Seafood and fishing is an integral part of life in Louisiana, the Sportsman’s Paradise. And in many ways it’s symbolic of life in South Louisiana.

It’s romantic: Talk to a commercial fisherman or an avid recreational fisherman and you’ll see how passionate he or she is about it. Fishing isn’t just a pastime or a way of life. It’s an identity.

It takes dedication: Nights, days, rough weather, blue skies, hot, cold, fishermen are working. Fishing, like life in Louisiana, is not for the lazy or the faint of heart. You’ve got to work at it. You’re not going to catch anything if your bait’s not in the water.

It’s fragile: As we’ve seen with economics and both natural and manmade disasters over the years, the ecosystem and way of life in South Louisiana is quite delicate. And fishermen know that fragility all too well.

An April anniversary

An upcoming anniversary underscores just how precious and fragile life on the water is.

Later this month, the people of the Gulf Coast region will reach an anniversary most would probably like to forget. April 20 will mark one year since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded about 70 miles south of Venice, La., killing 11 rig workers. The explosion triggered the largest oil spill in U.S. history, which released over the course of three months an estimated 205 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Though responders capped the well on July 15, 2010, efforts to capture released oil and clean the region’s sullied coastline continued through the end of 2010. And much of Southeast Louisiana’s coastal marshes still bear the marks of the BP Oil Spill. The longevity of the environmental impact from the spill is still unknown.

Last year at this time, I was reporting for two small newspapers and was wondering what “news” I’d write about over the summer. After all, in rural Plaquemines and St. Bernard Parish, summers aren’t usually action packed. Then came the late-night explosion, daylong rescue operation at the rig site, eventual sinking of the rig and the ensuing spill and response.

Over the next several months, the 80-mile drive from my house to Venice, the staging ground for the response and the usual place for press conferences, became almost automatic. Interviews, Coast Guard press conferences, boat tours, media events. It was nonstop.

There were a lot of questions surrounding the BP oil spill, both political and environmental. Whether all, some or none of those questions have been answered is debatable.

But one thing is certain: the oil spill highlighted Louisiana’s commercial fishermen’s already tenuous situation.

Prior to the spill, Louisiana shrimpers made headlines in 2009 when they marched on the State Capitol and lobbied Congress to help boost low prices at market. Shrimp is the most consumed seafood in the United States, yet about 90 percent of it is imported. As a result, U.S. shrimpers have very little lobbying power, even though the quality of domestic seafood is head-and-shoulders above imports.

Domestic seafood is stringently tested and regulated by the government, while imported seafood undergoes very little testing (and may contain pesticides and antibiotics). In addition, imported seafood prices are kept artificially low, which pushes domestic prices lower, which in turn makes it difficult for the everyday fisherman to stay in business. And this isn’t a recent development: over the past 30 years, the number of Louisiana commercial fishermen has decreased while seafood imports have shot up.

Add to that the BP oil spill – which resulted in massive closures of fishing grounds, near fatal salinity levels for oyster beds east of the Mississippi River and higher fuel costs – and it’s plain to see that fishermen have had a rough few years.

April celebrations

But in addition to the first anniversary of the BP Oil Spill, April also brings some events that offer hope for fishermen and opportunities for seafood consumers to support them.

April will begin a round of Blessing of the Fleet events. At the start of the different fishing seasons, fishermen will line their boats along the banks of bayous and canals in the region. Then, a priest or pastor will float down the waterway, offering a blessing for a safe and successful season. Fishermen’s families also use this time to celebrate the start to the season. Blessings of the Fleet offer a great glimpse into the world of commercial fishing.

April is when festival season kicks it into high gear, and many of these festivals highlight Louisiana’s rich seafood culture. Even the mudbugs have ventured out in April.

The springtime is also a great time to pick up seafood at local markets and groceries and try old and new recipes. You may also want to attend a Friday fish fry at your neighborhood church.

It’s time to eat, folks. But not just any seafood. Eat. Local. Seafood. It’s a great way to support local fishermen.

I’m convinced that Louisianians could keep Louisiana fishermen in business if we all bought ONLY Louisiana seafood.

If you want more seafood in your life, click over to the Geaux Therefore events page. We’ve posted a wide variety of events there that will help you discover Louisiana’s fantastic seafood culture.

Clockwise from top: Our Lady of Lourdes Church's Father John Arnone and St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro bless boats along Bayou La Loutre in 2010; A pelican takes flight from a pile anchoring oil boom in Mississippi Sound; Oil in the water off the coast of Louisiana in May 2010; A shrimp boat outfitted with boom returns from offshore in June 2010; Crawfish soak in a pot at the 2010 Buras Fire Department Crawfish Cook Off.