While harvesting grapes this afternoon, Farmer Shannon and I found this little fellow in the vineyard! At this point in his life as larva, he’s the Banded Woolly Bear, but come spring, as an adult he’ll be an Isabella Tiger Moth.
These caterpillars emerge from their eggs in the fall and remain that way over the winter, surviving the freezes by producing a cryoprotectant in their tissues. Once the weather warms, the caterpillars devour all the grass and weeds they can, they pupate, and then become adults and live through the summer.
According to legend, the wider that middle brown section is (i.e., the more brown segments there are), the milder the coming winter will be. Conversely, a narrow brown band is said to predict a harsh winter. But is it true?
I sure hope not, because this little guy isn’t too promising! As it turns out, though, larvae produced in the same clutch of eggs can vary from mostly red to mostly black, even when reared under the same conditions, and this variability pretty much invalidates that belief. In fact, the orange band will grow towards the ends of the body, with the black bands decreasing in size, as the larva matures.
Another fun fact: this little guy pictured in my hand is actually playing dead! If you remember back to my earlier post about the Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar whose everyday attire is intended to resemble that of a snake, here is yet another example of creatures interacting with their surroundings!
Speaking of–Halloween is coming up and our first day of Pumpkin harvesting is this Saturday, the 24th. I can’t wait for apple cider!