Friday, November 13, 2009

Wooly Bear Den

A week or so ago the kids and myself went out bear hunting, woolly bear caterpillars that is. Of coarse I had been removing them from paths of destruction for weeks not thinking to capture them for observation. And when looking for something it always becomes hard to find right? But lady luck was on our side and eventually we found two (one was in the asparagus). We put together a habitat and have named it the "Woolly Bear Den".

Currently there are two inhabitants. The den is out on my bedroom porch with the apples and squash, away from the reach of our naughty canines. Here the little fuzzies will hibernate through winter (they can survive -90 degree temperatures by making their own 'anti-freeze'), and awake in Spring to have a snack and spin a cacoon. One little fella seems to have forgotten to curl up in a ball before going to sleep, today I found him belly-up. Hmm...dead? Nope, still twitches when poked. Hoping he is not his 'way out'. (The other bear was eating and up and about.)

I took some pictures, but my lap-top is on the fritz and in for repair. They will have to wait...check out the information below for a little woolly bear fun!

From Ohio Sate University Extension: Cute, fuzzy and downright fun to watch it inch its way across a sidewalk, the harmless caterpillar has enjoyed being at the center of weather folklore. Like the groundhog's shadow, the woolly bear's 13 distinctive black and reddish-brown bands have become a rule of thumb in forecasting winter.

According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, the longer the middle brown band, the milder and shorter the coming winter; the shorter the brown band, the longer and more severe winter will be.

The truth behind the woolly bear's band length actually has more to do with age than with predicting the weather. As the caterpillar prepares to overwinter, the caterpillar molts, becoming less black and more reddish-brown as it ages. Woolly bears overwinter from September to May, and are commonly found along nature trails and wooded edges and crossing sidewalks and roadways seeking overwintering sites.

"The length of the bands have nothing to do with the severity of winter," said Bloestcher. "Woolly bears hole themselves up somewhere for winter. What do they care what color they are?"

The woolly bear, also known as the woolly worm and the black-ended bear, is the larva of the Isabella tiger moth. The caterpillar falls under "bristled" species, of which there are several different colors: all black, all brown, yellow and gray. But the black-and brown-banded species is considered the true banded woolly bear.

Woolly bears share winter predictions with some of nature's other critters, like honeybees and yellow jackets. Folklore tells that honeybees will store honey en masse in preparation for a severe winter and yellow jackets will build nests either high in the trees or in the ground depending on what the coming winter has in store.


Erin said...

I couldn't get the link to work, but will definitely do a search! How interesting! I never knew about the weather myths surrounding the caterpillar!

Ruralrose said...

Very interesting indeed! peace