Today we will discuss a message we received from one of our readers, “I found one all curled up in the driveway on a very cold winter day. I brought it in and it is living. But I don’t know what to feed it. I put a leaf from a house plant with it. I want to keep it until spring so that I can turn him loose to go about woolly worm business.”
Although the beginning of the message doesn’t explicitly state what creature she found, at the end of the message she mentions the specimen getting back to “woolly worm business.” Since she didn’t send a photograph of the creature to verify (the featured photo is from a previous reader), we will have to assume that she is indeed caring for a woolly worm caterpillar.
Woolly worm caterpillars are completely covered in hair. They have black hair on their posterior and anterior ends, and brown hair in the middle of their bodies. These caterpillars can survive in cold temperatures thanks to a natural organic antifreeze that they create, as well as choosing protective shelters such as underneath logs, boulder, and rocks. The antifreeze it creates will protect the woolly worm in extremley cold temperatures, and the caterpillar will remain in this frozen state until May when it will emerge as a colorful moth!
Woolly worms eat a variety of plants including cabbage, spinach, grass, and clover. The caterpillar protects itself by curling up into a ball and exposing only its bristles, which can irritate skin. Therefore, our reader shouldn’t directly touch the woolly worm she has brought in from the cold.
In some cultures, people believe that the severity of winter can be predicted by the intensity of the black portions of the caterpillar. If the woolly worm has more brown on its body than black, it will apparently be a fair winter. However, if the worm has more black on its body than brown, then the winter is predicted to be particularly harsh.
To wrap up, one of our readers discovered a woolly worm caterpillar on her driveway. If she wants to keep this caterpillar alive, she can feed it some of the greens we listed above.