by Elizabeth Huff

I would like to think that we all know not to mess with mother nature. Leave the animals alone, don’t experiment with things you don’t understand, etc. Unfortunately, the widely available video clips, tweets, and blog entries cataloging the variety of ways people have gotten on her bad side is continuous proof that some people will never learn. While many people may accidentally stumble upon something painful or even deadly (like snakes, spiders, etc.) still many more will intentionally step into harms way to see what will happen. In that case, I am firmly on the side of the animal, insect, death-dealing nightmare, whatever. If this sounds a little harsh just remember that it is survival of the fittest. Nature is weeding out the stupid ones. It’s better this way.

To help all the unwary, but well-meaning people out there who still don’t believe that nature has it in for us poor humans, here is a list of cute critters that can also be deadly. Why, you ask me, are they so cute if they are also deadly? After all, it won’t help them scare away predators. Well, to that I answer “nature has it in for us.” Who can blame her?

  • Poison Dart Frog – This small, cute, and stylish amphibian is also very deadly. There are a few people I would like to give one to for christmas (certain celebrities come to mind). There are several types of poison dart frog of varying degrees of toxicity, the most poisonous of which is the Golden Dart Frog. The average dose of poison carried is about 1 milligram, which is enough to kill about 10 to 20 humans.
  • Puss Caterpillar – Caterpillars are supposed to be harmless little creatures that look like cute worms (as cute as worms can get anyway if you don’t look to closely). This caterpillar shows what they really are however. Homicidal little maggots. It is covered in what looks like long hair so that you will be lured into petting it. Like a small, creepy cat. Once you do, you will also “pet” its venomous spines. The spines cause extremely painful reactions in humans and can also cause a burning sensation, swelling, nausea, headache, rashes, blisters, numbness, difficulty breathing, and more. And you just thought you had found a new pet.
  • Lonomia Obliqua – In keeping with the theme of caterpillars, I give you the Killer Caterpillar (cue bad B-movie soundtrack). Until this little bugger, nobody thought caterpillars could kill. The spines on this caterpillar deliver its toxin which can cause abnormal bleeding and coagulopathy which can lead to hemorrhagic syndrome. For those not in the medical field, that basically means death unless treated.
  • Swans – You know that pretty bird, the one you will turn into if you are an ugly duckling? That thing is evil. First they have teeth (for eating fish supposedly). Birds are not supposed to have teeth, but since it is hardly the bird’s fault we will let that one pass. The true horror comes if you try to mess with their nests (I don’t know who would want to, but people can be idiots). They will aggressively protect their nests and young, and will even try to drown you to do so. That’s fine if you are messing with them on purpose (see above survival of the fittest), but what about if you accidentally stumble upon one? And since I’m paranoid, I believe it is only a matter of time before they grow fangs and learn to hunt. Sleep on that.