Wooly Bears

October 14, 2011 · 12 comments

It’s wooly bear (Pyrrharctia isabella) season around these parts. I helped Levi collect no less than seven caterpillars in about five minutes right in our driveway. Wooly bears are harmless fuzzy caterpillars that turn into nondescript moths.

Will someone please chime in with a comment about whether the old wive’s tale about the orange stripe is bigger stripe = shorter winter or bigger stripe = longer winter. I can never remember. And what do you think about this stripe? Is it long or short?

These photos are dedicated to all the expatriated Oregonians that I’ve been hearing from lately. Hope they give y’all a little memory of home.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Arlie October 14, 2011 at 9:59 pm

how adorable are they?!! I’ve never heard the wives tale (nor have I ever seen a wooly bear in person) but I suppose I’d have to see other years worth of wooly bears to consider the orange stripe. Seems short in comparison to black… yeah? On an any related note, I have a feeling we are destined for a long winter here in Virginia and I am dreading it.
Love your posts Camille! thanks for sharing 🙂


abby October 14, 2011 at 11:58 pm

We are seeing them all over too. Seems late this year? Or is it just me?


Camille October 15, 2011 at 1:29 pm

I’ve been seeing one or two at a time for about a month, but it seems like all of a sudden they are everywhere. I’m kind of worried I’m going to go off the road in my car one of these days because I’m swerving to avoid the little buggers inching across the road.


17 Apart October 15, 2011 at 1:12 pm

These are so neat – never seen them before either. Here’s hoping however they are marked it means a shorter winter!


catie October 16, 2011 at 3:35 pm

oh, we had loads of these fuzzy guys when we lived in humboldt county. they do give some people {my kids included} contact dermatitis ~ nothing major, just a slight red rash on your hands.
as for the old wives tale, i always thought it was bigger stripe = longer, wetter winter.


Camille October 16, 2011 at 8:08 pm

I’ve never in all my years of picking up wooly bears gotten any rash, but I suppose it’s possible. Thanks for the tip.


Jessica October 18, 2011 at 3:35 pm

I grew up calling them Fuzzy Wuzzies … pretty cute name! We were told that if the middle stripe was thicker, then the winter might be colder – however, whether lore was accurate or not didn’t really matter, all about the story.


Julia (Schnake) Larsen October 20, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Oh, I sooo have childhood memories of these. I think I put one in a jar once hoping it would turn into a butterfly eventually. As I recall, it never even uncurled itself (after having curled up into a ball when I picked it up).


Coralie January 5, 2012 at 3:33 am

Hi, I’m from the UK (in Kent- the Garden of England :)) I was researching a black and orange caterpillar a friend found (not the woolly bear sadly) and I read your post. Then I wanted to know what the “non-descript” moth it turns into actually looked liked.Anyway, I read this wikipedia article – its so interesting!



Peter September 25, 2012 at 1:28 pm

For the first time I saw a completely orange woolie bear today!


SnackHouse December 16, 2013 at 9:10 am

I have 3 wooly bear catapillars none have very big stripes. short winter?!


Leslie January 13, 2014 at 11:24 pm

How fun! I don’t see many around our house in NE Portland, but we had plenty where I grew up in the Midwest. Stripes mean a milder winter, but solid black or brown mean a harsher winter.


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