(updated 11/10/18)

                                      Woolly Bear Caterpillar             

Hatched during the warm weather, a caterpillar searches for a place to overwinter, come Fall.  House hunting includes settling under bark or inside cavities of rocks or logs; some cozy place to wait out the cold season.  The seemingly “woolly” coat is not really soft but made of short, stiff bristles of hair.

Fall is the time we see these little tykes during their search for security.  At our home, we see caterpillars scurrying 65 MPH (caterpillar-style) across the driveway in obvious on-a-mission mode and others travelling 5 MPH (again, caterpillar-style, of course).  This one (we’ll call it Tourist) decided to investigate all the nooks and crannies between the porch bricks, while searching for shelter.  Tourist isn’t the only one; it happens every year.  They eventually find a suitable location, we guess.

Some say the larval of the the Isabella tiger moth (Pyrrharctia isabella) can predict the winter.  The typical caterpillar has bands of black to its front and back.  The middle section is either brown or orange.  It is said if the rusty band is wide, there will be a mild winter.  The more black that shows, the more severe the winter.   Tourist appears to be as pessimistic as lost on the freeway.

The internet indicates that a woolly bear event is held each year in Banner Elk, North Carolina.  Each October, the event is highlighted with a caterpillar race.  The retired mayor inspects the champion woolly bear and announces his winter forecast.  (This whole thing kind’a sounds like N. Carolina’s equivalent to Pennsylvania’s Groundhog Day and we’re not going to go there.  Besides, we don’t think we would have a good chance of having a champion with Tourist.)   

Mike Peters, an entomologist at the University of Massachusetts, indicates there could, in fact, be a link between winter severity and the brown band of these roaming winter house hunters.  “There’s evidence,” he states, “that the number of brown hairs has to do with the age of the caterpillar–in other words, how late it got going in the spring.  The band does say something about a heavy winter or an early spring.  The only thing is…it’s telling you about the previous year.”

In Spring, Tourist will emerge to spin a fuzzy cocoon in order to transform into its final stage, the full-grown moth.  (The moth photo on this page is taken from the internet, not here on Frisbee Road). 

Since we are not thrilled with Tourist’s apparent forecast, we’ll keep looking for another woolly bear caterpillar.  We like the color of rusty orange, and the more the better.

But now YOU decide…..

………….. Is this a good bug or a bad bug?