Tidbit Thursday: Ten Tidbits about the Woolly Bear Caterpillar

               Tidbit Thursday

Ten Tidbits about the Woolly Bear Caterpillar


FreshPaint-132-2018.10.04-02.11.39 One of the most recognized caterpillars for young and old is the woolly bear caterpillar. I have watched for them every year since I was a child.

“Get my sled ready, Mom. The caterpillar is mostly black.”


“Oh, good. We can start the garden early this year. I found a mostly brown caterpillar.”


       My parents taught me about the predicting powers of the woolly bear.

But where did they learn this? How did this “legend” begin?

Is there any basis for it in scientific fact?

Ten Tidbits about the Woolly Bear Caterpillar

  • The woolly bear caterpillar is the larva of the Isabella tiger moth, Pyrrharctia Isabella.


  • The caterpillar has 13 segments and is covered with stiff bristles that do not feel much like wool!


  • Why did the woolly bear cross the road? To find a place to spend the winter, like a hole in a log or a space underneath bark.


  • The weather predicting ability of this caterpillar comes from the coloring of the 13 segments. More black segments means a harsher winter. More brown segments means a milder winter. Where the segments are located is thought to predict when the winter weather will occur. Black at the ends of the caterpillar means harsh weather at the beginning and end of the winter season.


  • The story starts in 1948 at Bear Mountain State Park in New York when Dr. C. H. Curran decided to look at the connection between woolly bear coloration and weather forecasting.
  • Curran was the curator of insects at the American Museum of Natural History. He and his wife started a group called The Original Society of the Friends of the Woolly Bear. The society was a group of people who traveled every fall to Bear Mountain to collect the caterpillar data. But perhaps they also enjoyed seeing the beauty of the changing leaves as well!!
  • Curran and his group collected data between 1948 and 1956.


  • Woolly bear caterpillars produce two generations each year. The fall hatch protect themselves in the winter by producing a chemical that acts like antifreeze and keeps them from freezing.


  • There are several woolly bear festivals in the US-Vermillion, Ohio, Banner Elk, NC, Beattyville, KY and Lewisburg, PA.


  • If you try to pick up a woolly bear, it will use a defense mechanisms common to some animals. It will roll up in a ball, and play dead!

To learn more about the woolly bear caterpillar and the Isabella tiger moth, visit the following websites which I used as sources for the above information:










Have a great day!


Nature Mamaw

All photographs courtesy of Pixabay.com


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