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Woolly Bears

Bears in Butler County? Little ones called Woolly bears are more apparent now than during the summer. What is a woolly bear? It is the caterpillar, larval stage, of the Isabella Tiger Moth (Pyrrharctia isabella). Common names for this cute fuzzy insect includes woolly worm and hedgehog caterpillar because it curls into a tight bristly ball and "plays dead" when disturbed.

woolly bear 1

We see them more often in fall because they are leaving their plant food such as grasses, dandelions and nettles in search of a dark and sheltered spot where they can hibernate. They will spend the winter as a larva and turn into an adult moth in spring. The adult moth has a short life span of only 1-2 weeks to find a mate and lay eggs to complete it's life cycle.

Isabella Tiger Moth

Do they really predict the upcoming winter weather? Folklore says that the amount of black varies proportionately with severity of the upcoming winter. Longer black bands means longer, colder, snowier winter. Therefore, a wider middle brown band is associated with a milder winter season. The color is actually based on how long the caterpillar has been feeding, it's age and species. The better growing season, the bigger it will grow which results in narrower red-orange bands in its middle.

woolly bear feet

Next time you see a woolly bear, pretend to be a meteorologist and predict our upcoming winter weather.

wooly bear 2