Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Attack of the Giant Woolly Bear!

Woolly Bear (Pyrrharctia isabella) caterpillar [click photo for a really close-up view]

Ha, ha, just kidding. This is just a close-up photograph with no frame of reference. I was cycling in the Don on the weekend and came across many of these making their way across the bike path, unfortunately some of them have been squished by inattentive (or very attentive) cyclists.

These creatures are the larval form of the Isabella Tiger Moth. Most moths lay their eggs in the the fall which then hatch in the spring. With this species, the eggs hatch in September and the caterpillars feed up until the first frost when they go into hibernation, usually under a rock or a log. When spring arrives they wake up and start to feed. I've seen them crawling across melting banks of snow in March when the first warm thaw hits. This adaptation gives them a bit of a head start on the rest of the bunch as they get first crack at spring vegetation.

According to Wikipedia, they are celebrated in Ohio during an event called the Woollybear Festival. I suppose their fuzzy appearance makes them kind of cute. I wonder if they hold woolly bear races?

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