Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Wonders of Woolly Bears

This woolly bear caterpillar was feasting on our new broccoli plants so we scooped it off and I took it to school. I already had a tank set up with gulf fritillaries, monarchs and swallowtails, so what was one more mouth to feed? I fed this one salad. When it started hanging upside down, we thought it was beginning to make its cocoon, but it chose a spot in the very top of the screened roof.

Woolly bears have been used as prognosticators of the severity of the upcoming winter. Several communities in America even have wooly bear festivals.

When I was researching what else it would eat BESIDES our broccoli, I made what is to me an amazing discovery. Woolly bear caterpillars live within the arctic circle where they have such a short eating season as a caterpillar that they cannot go through their cycles in one year. In winter, their bodies freeze solid and their hearts stop until the spring thaw. Then they come out of the ground, eat and do it all again, year after year. Some woolly bears live at least 22 years!! Eventually, they become a moth, mate and die within a few days.

1 comment:

Hayley said...

We have a couple of swallowtails in a tank at our house. Our two year old was so proud when they wove their cocoons. We read that they'll overwinter if the temperature is off. I'm wondering if they'll go through their metamorphosis in the a/c. Sometimes they'll wait through the entire winter and come out once the weather is warm again.

I find the info you posted on the Wooly Bears SO INTERESTING! 22 years?!? That's incredible!