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Invasion of the Woolly Bears


In general, I like caterpillars.  I like the fact that they will turn into butterflies or moths.  I do not feel the same way about grubs that turn into June Bugs but that's another story.

We are having a huge invasion of woolly bears.  They are also called woolly worms or fuzzy worms which is exactly what they look like.  They are the larval stage of the Isabella Tiger Moth, Pyrrharctia isabella, which is an attractive medium sized moth, yellowish orange to creamy gold in color with black spots on its wings.  The woolly bear has no venom and doesn't bite or sting but the bristles in it's fuzzy coat can cause dermatitis so no touching!

This moth is common across northern Mexico, all of the United States and the southern third of Canada.  The woolly bears come out in the fall to feed so that the moths can make an appearance in the spring.

The woolly bears are 13 segments long, black at front and back but reddish brown in the center.  They can show lots of brown or just a bit which leads to the interesting folklore that surrounds these little guys.  The story is if they are more black then the coming winter will be harsh.  If they show lots of brown then the winter will be mild.  There is no scientific evidence that they can predict winter weather, however.  And I can see why.  There is no consensus among my woolly bears - they show lots of brown or not much at all.   

There are woolly bear festivals in Ontario, Canada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky and New York in the fall if you are so inclined.