Woolly Bear Wear, 2017

What the well-dressed woolly bear is wearing this year! Follow them down the runway to select your favorite outfit for Fall 2017!

insect wooly bear 5insect wooly bear 4

The woolly bear caterpillar—also called woolly worm and fuzzy worm—has the reputation of being able to forecast the coming winter weather. Whether this is fact or folklore, learn more about this legendary caterpillar and how to “read” the worm.

Here’s the legend: The Woolly Bear caterpillar has 13 distinct segments of either rusty brown or black. The wider the rusty brown sections (or the more brown segments there are), the milder the coming winter will be. The more black there is, the more severe the winter.

How the Woolly Bear Caterpillar Became “Famous”

  • In the fall of 1948, Dr. C. H. Curran, curator of insects at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, took his wife 40 miles north of the city to Bear Mountain State Park to look at woolly bear caterpillars.
  • Dr. Curran collected as many caterpillars as he could in a day, determined the average number of reddish-brown segments, and forecast the coming winter weather through a reporter friend at The New York Herald Tribune.
  • Dr. Curran’s experiment, which he continued over the next eight years, attempted to prove scientifically a weather rule of thumb that was as old as the hills around Bear Mountain. The resulting publicity made the woolly worm the most recognizable caterpillar in North America.


Painted Lady hangs on

Butterfly painted lady

She (ID book didn’t distinguish sex) may be old and faded but this painted lady is in pretty good shape for her age and is still here in mid-October. Maybe she’ll hang around until the first frost. I watched one fly low over the lawn, glowing in the sunlight as it searched for sorrel, followed faithfully by a little orange skipper.

Elderly butterflies

Butterfly swallowtail old

Check out what remains of the swallowtails and the rear wing edges of this old female tiger swallowtail. (You recognize a female because she wears a blue skirt.)

Butterfly black swallow old 2

Here is the back edge of her faded and torn front wing.

Butterfly black swallow old

And here she is, her whole self, happily feasting on butterfly bush blossoms. Look closely at the next butterfly you see. Check for damage. Sometimes you’ll find a butterfly well able to fly in spite of having lost most of a rear wing to a bird that missed its juicy body.

A caterpillar’s silk thread makes most of the silk we wear. What about spider silk?

insect caterpillar web

This caterpillar was spinning in the wind, hanging from its own silk thread. It was climbing back  up to who knows where.

Most silk used for clothing comes from silkworms or moth caterpillars, whose larvae produce silk to form cocoons. 

After decades of trying, scientists may have finally found a way to make body armor out of spider silk. Aside from being very cool, this would mean ultra-lightweight, super-strong, flexible body armor that would provide highly improved protection for America’s soldiers and law enforcement officers.

And in case you’ve forgotten, caterpillars are insects! Like all insects, caterpillars have six legs emerging from their thorax. The problem is they also have stumpy prolegs that emerge from their abdomen. Technically these are not true legs, even though they have the same function.

Raccoons love Whole Foods!

Raccoons eat insects

Guess what this raccoon had for dinner last night. Raccoons have a varied diet, similar to ours. Raccoons eat berries, other fruits, nuts, grains, and vegetables. They also eat insects, eggs, poultry, rats, squirrels, small livestock, birds, fish, snakes, craw fish, worms, frogs, and mollusks. Additionally, raccoons will eat pet food, carrion, and human garbage.

Raccoon 1

You can tell it was a raccoon meal because they are so tidy. Craw fish remains from another feast are similarly displayed. Did you guess what raccoon had for dinner last night?


insect praying mantis 1

Oh dear…