Tuesday, January 20, 2009

You are never too old to learn new things

In my January 18 posting I commented on my surprise at seeing a black and reddish-brown fuzzy caterpillar crossing my path in middle of January. I asked if anyone knew the species. An alert reader (my son) informed me that it is a Banded Wooly Bear, which is the larvae of an Isabella Tiger Moth.

Apparently, these little guys stay in the caterpillar stage all winter and only go into the pupa and adult stage in the spring. They produce some kind of an internal anti-freeze that allows them to survive the cold of winter -- they should synthesize this stuff and sell it to everybody who lives above the 49th parallel.

There is a legend about how this caterpillar predicts the severity of the winter by the width of its bands. Of course, according to Al Gore, by now this thing would simply be the Wooly Bear and would have lost it bands. It is also the object of some festivals in the United States:

The annual Woollybear Festival occurs each October in Vermilion, Ohio. The family event, started in 1973, features a woolly bear costume contest in which kids, even pets, are dressed up as various renditions of the woolly bear caterpillar.

There also is an annual Woolly Worm Festival that occurs in Beattyville, Kentucky. It started in 1987, and features many food booths, live music, a "Woolly Worm Race" in which people race the Woolly Bear caterpillar up vertical strings.

There is also an annual Woolly Worm Festival that occurs in Banner Elk, NC. It began in 1977 and celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2007. The festival includes booths with crafts, food, and races. The winning Woolly Worm predicts the winter weather for the following winter.

Thanks to Wikipedia for the information on the festivals.

No comments: