Saturday, August 23, 2014

Woolly Bear is King of the Moss

I have been talking a lot about creatures of the garden lately. It just goes to confirm that our gardens are “living landscapes.” A couple of weeks ago I spotted this Woolly Bear caterpillar hanging out on this piece of moss by the shed. I found it kind of funny because it’s the only piece of moss right in that area. I guess the caterpillar thought it made for a cozy bed.

I was a little worried that it might actually be dead and contemplated poking it with a stick. Then I decided that wasn’t a good idea because I wouldn’t want someone poking me with a stick when I was napping. I decided to wait and see if he moved the next day...and indeed he did. By only about a couple of feet, though. Then the next day he was gone. I hope he wasn’t eaten by anything.

I named him Henry VIII. Mainly because he seemed like he ruled this little piece of moss.

I don’t know a whole lot about Woolly caterpillars except that I seem to see quite a few of them each year. Last year I saw more than ever. According to Wikipedia, the “Woolly Bear larva emerges from the egg in the fall and overwinters in its caterpillar form, when it literally freezes solid. It survives being frozen by producing a cryoprotectant in its tissues. In the spring it thaws out and emerges to pupate. Once it emerges from its pupa as a moth (the Isabella Tiger Moth) it has only days to find a mate.” Fascinating.

According to folklore, “the relative amounts of brown and black on the skin of a Woolly Bear caterpillar (commonly abundant in the fall) are an indication of the severity of the coming winter. It is believed that if a Woolly Bear caterpillar’s brown stripe is thick, the winter weather will be mild and if the brown strip is narrow, the winter will be severe. In reality, hatchlings from the same clutch of eggs can display considerable variation in their color distribution, and the brown band tends to grow with age; if there is any truth to the tale, it is highly speculative.”

To read more and to see photos of it in moth form, go to Wikipedia.

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