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Woolly Bears Everywhere

We've been seeing lots of Woolly bears lately hurrying across the trails around the nature center.

These bristly black and orange or brown banded caterpillars are on the move to find a perfect place to spend the winter months.

The Wooly bears you see now hatched from eggs this year and have been eating all summer. But it's time to settle down in a protected place. The hunt is on for the Perfect Spot!

They'll overwinter as caterpillars, also called larva, hibernating in leaf litter, under bark, logs or rocks. To protect their organs from freezing their bodies produce a type of antifreeze.  Amazingly, Woolly bears can survive temperatures down to -90° F!

Found in northern Mexico all the way up through the U.S. to southern Canada, next spring each caterpillar will spin a fuzzy cocoon and emerge as an adult Isabella Tiger moth (Pyrrharctia isabella).

According to legend, Woolly Bear caterpillars can predict the weather! Folklore says if you see a wide orange/brown band in between the two black bands it means the upcoming winter will be mild. But a caterpillar with more black than brown indicates a cold winter ahead.

Most scientists think the size of the bands probably has more to do with the age of the caterpillar and what they ate during the summer. Unlike Monarch caterpillars, Woolly bears eat a wide variety of plants including dandelions, nettles, tree leaves and other foliage.

To learn how Woolly bears became famous, and if they really can predict the weather, visit the Farmer's Almanac.