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September 18
Wooly Bear Caterpillars

wooly bear on raspberry leaf.jpg

It's fall, I know because I watched a wooly bear or black-ended caterpillar cross the road this morning. When students see these critters the ask three questions. Where are they going ? What are they called? What do they turn into? These are common enough that if you walk with students in the fall and spring you may be interested to know the life cycle. 

The caterpillars in the fall are looking for a place to hibernate. The curl up and slow down in a place out of the wind, say under a rock. There they spend the winter frozen solid only to crawl out next spring and build a hairy or woolly looking cocoon. From the coccon immerges a Isabella Moth (Prrharctia isabella)or any one of the tiger moths depending where you live.  The Moths proceeds to mate and lay eggs which hatch into mini-caterpillars which molt going through 5 or 6 instar before it is ready to produce a cocoon. In Wisconsin they often get two life cycles per season in the artic it may take 20 years to complete a life cycle.

Wooly bears in the artic            

An Educators Guide to Raising Wooly Bear Caterpillars.pdfAn Educators Guide to Raising Wooly Bear Caterpillars.pdf

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