From Bear to Tiger – Banded Woolly Bear Caterpillar to Isabella Tiger Moth

From Bear to Tiger – Banded Woolly Bear Caterpillar to Isabella Tiger Moth

Banded Woolly Bear Caterpillars

Similar to many children, I’m sure, this was the first caterpillar I was able to identify by name. I can recall my delight at finding one on the sidewalk on my way home from school, and carrying them home with me so they could live on a stick in a jar. Banded woolly bear caterpillars can be identified by their fuzzy appearance and large coppery brown stripe in the center of their bodies. These caterpillars overwinter in their caterpillar form and pupate in the spring, emerging as the Isabella tiger moth, Pyrrharctia isabella. The adult moths probably do not catch one’s attention the way the caterpillars do – they are a dull yellow with a sprinkling of small black spots. Their thorax is quite fluffy, but generally I think the reality of the appearance of the Isabella tiger moth falls somewhat short of it’s majestic name!

Banded Woolly Bear Caterpillar

The banded woolly bear caterpillars are not picky eaters, and will feed on most types of plants that they come across – this is known as being a generalist feeder. If disturbed, (say by a young child, picking it up) the caterpillar will curl up and play dead. Some claim that the hairs on the body of the caterpillar will irritate your skin if you pick one up, but I have never experienced this. The name “woolly bear” is also given to other caterpillars in the Arctiinae family that have dense coats of hairs.

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