Sunday, October 14, 2012

Wolly Bear Walk Predicting Winter?

Leetonia Wolly Bear  Caterpillars

Tiger Moth
Here is some interesting facts about our little Wolly Bear Caterpillar friends from Wikipedia:

The moth Pyrrharctia isabella is known by different common names at its two main life stages. The adult is the Isabella Tiger Moth and the larva is called the Banded Woolly Bear. The larvae of many species of Arctiid moths are called "woolly bears" because of their long, thick, furlike setae.
The insect can be found in many cold regions, including the Arctic. The banded Woolly Bear larva emerges from the egg in the fall and overwinters in its caterpillar form, when it literally freezes solid. First its heart stops beating, then its gut freezes, then its blood, followed by the rest of the body. It survives being frozen by producing a cryoprotectant in its tissues. In the spring it thaws out and emerges to pupate. Once it emerges from its pupa as a moth it has only days to find a mate before it dies.
Caterpillars normally become moths within months of hatching in most temperate climates, but in the Arctic the summer period for vegetative growth and hence feeding is so short, that the Woolly Bear feeds for several summers, freezing again each winter before finally pupating. Some are known to live through as many as 14 winters.
My interest in this Wolly Caterpillars is the theory they can predict the length and harshness of the winter according to the band of reddish fur compared to the black. According to legend, the more red the easier winter we will have.
So during my 2 mile walk, I observed 22 caterpillers. Eighteen of the caterpillars looked just like the two in the first picture, 4 had a bit stronger bands of black. My interpretation from these caterpillars is for a mild winter again in Leetonia. Let's see what happens. If you have these near your house do your own survey and post results. This is best time to do it. Post them on comments. Mountain girl, Paula, logging out and hoping for another mild winter.

3 comments:

Ken said...

Most of the ones I've seen around south-central PA are like the ones in the picture, however I have seen some all black and even a few that were blonde (different insect?)

Ken said...

On my daily walks here in Lancaster Co., most are like in the picture, but I have seen several that were all black, and a couple that were blonde. A different insect I suppose?

buckstrang said...

Paula,
iwas in your neck of the woods this weekend, i stopped at leetonia cemetery. Found the plot i was looking for i think, top of hill last plot.
really wanted to stop and meet you looked for your place and didnt find it.
I have some questions of the area to ask i will email you soon.
Buck