>> Wednesday, October 21, 2009
I have always, always had a major thing for woolly bear caterpillars, a.k.a. Isabella Tiger Moth larvae, or Pyrrharctia isabella. I simply adore them. I kept them as "pets" as a kid, and distinctly recall holding a funeral for one that didn't quite survive to mothdom. Here's me with one of my woolly bear buddies long ago:
I also clearly recall an autumn hike in which I toodled along after my parents and older sister, scooping up every woolly bear I could find and dropping it into the hood of my jacket. I had them everywhere by the end of that walk - dozens of them.
Even now, every fall I spend most of my hikes subconsciously scanning for them in hopes of being able to spend a few minutes with one bumping over my knuckles. I drive around in fear of squishing one, and in fact am still traumatized by the memory of one fabulous and horrible autumn that produced an incredible crop of woolly bears such that it was impossible to avoid squishing them by the dozens while driving.
I'm not sure why I find them so appealing, but I do. They seem like gentle little creatures, with such lovely fuzzy stripes. I remember being so disappointed to learn that the adult moths are a drab brown color. Folklore has it that you can predict how harsh the upcoming winter will be by the width of the rust-colored stripe: wide stripe = mild winter, narrow stripe = better make sure the snow shovel is in good working order and you have plenty of stacked wood.
Has this been an acceptable autumn? Why yes, it has. This fine specimen allowed me a few minutes of joy at Taughannock Falls: