I was sitting on the couch last night, relaxing after a beautiful day outdoors.
The dogs and I were enjoying a cup of tea- well, I was enjoying the tea – they were just keeping me warm!!!
I felt a little wet spot on my shoulder – and thought maybe I might have dribbled some tea. Didn’t think anything of it, and next thing I knew, I felt something tickling my arm – and then something was CRAWLING down my arm, inside my sweatshirt!
Well, I deftly leapt up, effortlessly tossing aside two 70 pound lapdogs (it’s amazing what adrenaline can do!) zipped myself out of that sweatshirt and tossed it on the floor! Upon impact, a fuzzy little circle rolled out of the sweatshirt. It was a wooly bear caterpillar- all black – and rolled up in its hedgehog style protective stance!
Insects have always intrigued me – but from a discreet distance!!! Certainly not in my sweatshirt or in my hair!!!!! This little guy was either a stowaway on a traveling dog of my acquaintance – or got into my sweatshirt earlier in the day!
That afternoon, I had been sitting in the sun, on the mounting block, watching the horses graze. It got warm, so I had tossed my sweatshirt on the nearby round bale. Maybe this little guy was looking for a good hibernation spot – and the sweatshirt looked appealing!!
I have always been leery of caterpillars, and bugs in general, until I can fully and totally identify them! I used to handle caterpillars as a child, until one day, a handful of them turned on me – and began stinging !!! That incident ended my handling insects until I was absolutely sure of their capabilities!!!
Since moving out here to the country, I have discovered an endless parade of bugs and spiders, that keep the Google Search engine and I in constant contact!!!
Getting back to the rolled up fuzzy caterpillar in question – I got a tissue, gently picked him up and deposited him on the deck out back! I turned that sweatshirt inside out, to make sure he had no traveling companions!
Then – off to Google him and see what he was!
There are apparently different varieties of the Wooly Caterpillar. The ones with the brown bands are folkloric weather predictors- kind of like Puxatawney Phil! The width of their brown colored band supposedly determines the severity of the oncoming winter! Entomologists pooh-pooh this as an old wife’s tale – but who can argue with the locals and the Farmers’ Almanac?!
The black fuzzy who was in my sweatshirt will eventually hibernate, and in the spring will build a cocoon, then metamorphose into a giant leopard moth. They are apparently easy to keep over the winter, to watch this process unfold. I would not have been so hasty in putting him out, had I know that!! It would have been interesting to watch! Of course, he was the first black one I had seen. All the others are the brown banded wooly bears, who turn into Isabella Tiger Moths. They are all from the family Actiidae, from the Greek arctos=bear. That’s for all of you into the official names and origin!!!
A well ventilated jar kept in a cool place, with a twig and some grass, dandelions or clover will give you an up close and personal view of the life cycle of a wooly bear!!! I would much prefer that – than the inside of my sweatshirt – particularly when I am still in that sweatshirt!!!!
All is well, and inundated with wooly bears, lady beetles, and flies, at Mountain Meadows this mild, autumn Sunday morning………………………!!
Brown and furry
Caterpillar in a hurry
Take your walk
To the shady leaf, or stalk
Or what not,
Which may be the chosen spot.
No toad spy you,
Hovering bird of prey pass by you:
Spin and die,
To live again as a butterfly.
Sing-Song Nursery Rhyme Book, 1893 – Christine Rossetti ((1830-1894)