The Woolly Bear Caterpillar

Audrey K., Staff Writer

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Most people think that all caterpillars become butterflies or moths promptly. They are accurate. Most caterpillars live for 2-3 months. But living here in Illinois, we have the opposite. Could you imagine a 14-year-old caterpillar?

 You don’t have to imagine. they live right here in Illinois. I have one in a box on my front porch (to study). The Wooly Bear Caterpillar is a species that has been around for eras. 

 The larvae eat grasses, phorbs and leaves of most trees, most of which don’t grow in the winter. So how could this caterpillar survive winter temperatures in Canada and the Arctic circle?

The caterpillar freezes its body, protecting the vital organs such as the brain and heart. “They freeze and thaw out about seven times in their life.” Says one website dedicated to the species. Most people see them crossing the street. They are looking for homes in the long, frozen, weeks to come. This antifreeze like substance not only saves their lives but makes them excellent ‘pets’. They can live in harsh circumstances, their diet is easy to fulfill, and they do not need lots of attention. 

   Many people believed that the caterpillar can predict the winter weather. If you look at the picture above, you will see that the creature has an orange band around its middle. This band varies in size, depending on how much it ate last year. If the ring is larger, it means more food. So in fact, this belt can tell you the temperature of the previous winter. According to the Old Farmers Almanac, in 1948, a scientist took Wooly Bears to investigate. He tried to prove, ” scientifically a weather rule of thumb that was as old as the hills around Bear Mountain.” He did manage to prove that this legend was true, but sadly, it’s not. 

 The caterpillar is the larval form of the Isabella Tiger Moth. 

 

This  moth is not very beautiful compared to others, but the rusty ring on the caterpillar makes it easy to recognize.

 All in all, these beautiful creatures are interesting to learn about, and even more fascinating to study. I will post weekly updates on how my caterpillar is doing, and anyone can email me ([email protected]) to help name my fuzzy friend. Hopefully the next time you see one of these ancient caterpillars, you will think twice before squashing them. 

 

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