It’s a face only a mother could love!
Pyrrharctia isabella in the adult stage is a Tiger Moth, but in this stage of the game we call him the Banded Woolly Bear.
I spotted him on one of the slate steps in my walkway, taking a nap, maybe, or just warming up on a cool fall morning.
I had to lie down to photograph him, stretch myself out on the back lawn and push the camera through the grass. He was harder to photograph than I thought: at the slightest provocation, this little guy curled into a ball (more like a tight comma). I had to wait, motionless, while he figured out things were safe enough to unroll, and when he did, he moved lickety-split across the flagstone!
I’d miss the shot, of course; I had to pick him up (he’d curl up instantly), set him gently back on the slate, wait for him to uncurl again.
It took five tries!
The Woolly Bear emerges in the fall. One of its favorite foods is the aster, so I always plant extras, and it also likes sunflowers, grass and clover. It spends the winter under leaves or other plant material; I mulch my lily gardens with lots of straw and compost, so my Woolly Bear population is always high.
WBs survive the
winters by literally freezing solid – no heartbeat, no blood circulation...nothing! Maine
In the spring, after they thaw out, they’re back again, but only for a short while. They spend a week or so feeding, then spin themselves inside a cocoon; the adult moth appears in about thirty days.
New England tradition has it that the Woolly Bear is a weather forecaster – the wider the orange-brown segment band in the middle, the milder the winter will be. (I’ve heard that some scientist actually collected data for ten years or so trying to prove this, but I’ve never found his results!)
If there are really thirteen segments to a Woolly Bear, and this fellow has four distinct brown segments (with a little spillover on either end), I’d guess that we’re looking at an average winter this year in Maine – lots of snow and moderately cold. I’m close to the ocean, though, and temperatures here are usually a few degrees warmer than inland.
What are weather predictors in your part of the world?