black caterpillar

January 3, 2021

This is a rarity – for me – two on a Sunday!
But I just had to share!

I found this little guy – or gal – yesterday, Saturday, January 2, 2021 – while out splitting wood with my boyfriend. Actually, we had finished up and were covering the wood back up because it’s raining today.

You know the meaning of black woolly bears, right? The saying goes that the bigger the black stripe on the caterpillar the harsher the winter is going to be…but what about an all black caterpillar?
I looked it up… they’re are different “types” of woolly bear caterpillars, the one above is a Giant Leopard Caterpillar, the one below is the woolly bear or banded caterpillar. The caterpillar above doesn’t predict winter conditions!

Woolly Bear Caterpillars…

  • also known as Woolly bears, woolly worm, and fuzzy worm
  • Isabella tiger moth/Pyrrharctia isabella (scientific name)
Woolly Bear Caterpillar (Pyrrharctia isabella)
(not my image)
  • also known as the banded woolly bear
  • there are at least eight species or types of woolly bears
Isabella Tiger Moth
(not my image)
Isabella Tiger Moth
  • lives in the United States and southern Canada
  • formally named by James Edward Smith in 1797
  • adult moth only lives one or two weeks (wikipedia)
  • often has black segments on either end, and rust colored in the middle
  • all black woolly caterpillars aren’t actually the woolly bears that predict the weather, it’s a different species
  • if the rusty band is wide, it will be a mild winter; the more black there is, the harsher the winter

So, the caterpillar I found isn’t the woolly bear that predicts winter weather, it could have fooled me! It is actually a Giant Leopard caterpillar…

Full-grown giant woolly bear, (Hypercompe scribonia (Stoll 1790)
(not my image)
  • a different species or type of woolly bears
(my image)
  • adult male moths can reach about 51 mm (2 in) in length, while the adult female grows up to 30 mm (1.2 in)
Figure 5. Giant leopard moth, Hypercompe scribonia (Stoll 1790), adult, dorsal view. Photograph by Donald W. Hall, University of Florida.
great leopard moth
  • both caterpillars will over winter, completing their development in the spring
  • caterpillars are the larvae of the moths and butterflies
  • one or two broods each year (lay eggs) depending on where they happen to live
Giant leopard moth, Hypercompe scribonia (Stoll 1790), pupa with last instar larval exuviae (shed exoskeleton)
pupa with last instar larval exuviae (shed exoskeleton)

Some sites that I looked at say that the Giant Leopard Caterpillar is the weather predictor, this just isn’t true. The banded one is the weather predictor… the black caterpillar I found yesterday stays like that all year.

Like I mentioned earlier, the black bands of the banded woolly bear, predict the winter weather…the more rust color their is, the milder the winter. The lengths of the bands can also predict the type of winter:

  • equal black on either end = the start and finish of the season will be rough, the middle not so bad
  • longer or wider band in the front = harsher start to winter
  • longer band in the back = harsher end to winter
  • if there isn’t much rust color = harsher than normal most of the way through
  • the lengths of the black bands on the woolly/banded caterpillar actually depends on the amount of moisture it receives

Although the caterpillar I found looks like a woolly bear, and technically it is, it’s not the one we look to for winter weather conditions. After taking two photos of my new little friend, I stuck him back out in the garden and covered him with some leaves. I’m sure he’ll find a good place to over winter. Maybe I’ll find his cocoon sometime!

caterpillar spirit animal affirmation:
I believe in my life changing adventure

(pinterest)

  • images that are not mine are by Donald Hall, unless other wise noted

hope you have a great day!
thanks for stopping by!!

The caterpillar grows wings during a season of isolation. Remember that next time you're alone. Mandy Hale

“The caterpillar grows wings during a season of isolation. Remember that the next time you’re alone.”

~ Mandy Hale

(pinterest)

take care
stay safe
much love

2 Comments on “black caterpillar

  1. I think those little critters are so cute! I haven’t seen one around here in a long time, but I do like when I do. It was interesting to read about them. 🙂

    • Thank you! I think they’re interesting critters too. As cold as it’s been, I was surprised it was still alive, but they do over-winter. I’ll have to keep my eyes open for black cocoons.

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