THE WOOLLY BEAR CATERPILLAR
By Bailey Walten 1990 Newsletter
Perhaps you’ve wondered about those black n’ brown fuzzy things scurrying across the roadway in the Fall. Maybe your children have proudly run up to you with a round, bristly curled up creature in their hands to show off their latest find! These fuzzy, bristly, black n’ brown creatures are the critters known as “Woolly Bear Caterpillars.” This caterpillar is the larva of Isia Isabella, a species of the tiger moth. The adult moth is yellow brown with three rows of small black spots on its abdomen while caterpillars are usually black on each end with a reddish-brown band around the middle. It is the adoration of the caterpillar that is of special interest. Apparently, some would-be prognosticators of the weather believe that the amount of black on the caterpillars varies proportionately with the severity of the upcoming Winter. Entomology texts de-bunk this notion by revealing that the older the instar (larval stage) of the caterpillar, the more reddish-brown they become, thus, variation in color merely reflects age differences among the larvae as they prepare to over-winter and are not scientifically reliable indicators of the Winter weather to come.
The Woolly Bear has gained special attention notoriety in Hagerstown, Maryland, where the National Woolly Bear competition is held every October. The “cuddliest” entry is crowned “ALMA” and the “biggest, woolliest” of entrants earns the grand title of “Hairy Hager.” Each title holder also receives a cash award of $100.00. Those of you eager to participate in next year’s competition must have your entries at “Woolly Bear Headquarters” at 111 W. Washington Street in Hagerstown, Maryland between October 1 and 31.