Creature Feature: Woolly Bear

This charming caterpillar is known by many names – Banded Woolly Bear, Woolly Worm, or woollybear. However, it’s official name is the Isabella Tiger Moth (Pyrrharctia isabella). You’ve likely had to step over this slow-moving critter as it crosses a path or trail. These hardy caterpillars can survive cold latitudes by literally freezing solid during the winter, with the help of “cryoprotectant” chemicals that their bodies produce .
 
Humans have long had an appreciation for these charming critters. Folklore in the US and Canada claims that the width of the Woolly Bear’s brown band and the direction it moves in can indicate the severity of the coming winter. There are at least 7 Woolly Bear festivals throughout North America, most of which involve a Woolly Bear race, costume contests, and a Groundhog Day-style winter weather prediction from one of the caterpillars. Sadly, the Woolly Bear has never achieved widespread fame in the field of animal meteorology. That honor goes to
Punxsutawney Phil…for now!
 
Photo Credit: Blucolt on Flickr
Sources: Wikipedia – Isabella Tiger Moth