This is the iconic woolly bear that is said to predict the severity of the upcoming winter. While we support the fun and festivals that surround it, sort of like Groundhog’s Day, it is not a predictor. Woolly bears are common throughout North America at lower elevations and feed on a wide variety of plants, including grasses, asters, birches, clover, corn, elms, maples, milkweed and sunflowers. In fall, the full-grown caterpillars wander and are often seen crossing roads. They are on the hunt for sheltered places in which to overwinter — hollow logs, piles of leaves, cracks in foundations, stacks of firewood. The caterpillars have a remarkable capability to withstand freezing temperatures thanks to a special “antifreeze ” (glycerol) in their body. In spring, they will pupate within cocoons made from their hairs and emerge as the lesser-known adults.
Photo by Glenn Marangelo on 10/11/20 near Missoula, MT