Banded wooly bear: caterpillar that sticks around during winter

banded wooly bear
Banded wooly bear. Photo courtesy Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

Legend has it that the banded woolly bear can predict the weather. The size of their middle band is supposed to tell us whether the winter will be harsh or mild. There are other versions of this folklore, too, though none of it stands up to scrutiny.

But the banded wooly bear is a cool caterpillar. It is one of the few species of moth or butterfly that overwinters as a full-size caterpillar, according to the Butterflies & Moths of NY State brochure (PDF). It’s not unusual to spot woolly bears crawling around on a warm winter day.

In the spring, they will pupate and become Isabella moths (Pyrrharctia isabella).

Learn more in the Butterflies & Moths of NY State brochure (PDF) and Conservationist for Kids Hibernation issue (PDF).

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