Photo of the Week – October 10, 2013

At the Platte Prairies, and – I assume – throughout most of the central United States, this is the time of year we see woolly bear caterpillars crawling all over.  They are one of the most widely-recognized caterpillars around, though most people don’t give a second glance to the tiger moth they become as adults.

A tiger moth larva (woolly bear caterpillar) photographed on October 4, 2013.  The Nature Conservancy's Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

A tiger moth larva (woolly bear caterpillar) photographed on October 4, 2013. The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

This time of year, woolly bears are often seen crossing roads or sidewalks, trying to find a place to spend the winter.  Like many other insects, they will freeze solid over the winter, only to thaw out and resume their lives in the spring.

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.
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8 Responses to Photo of the Week – October 10, 2013

  1. Chris Pague says:

    From the size of that saddle/stripe, it looks like you are going to have a very cold/long winter! Chris

  2. Brad Ryden says:

    Really nice as always. This was in the UK Guardian and I thought you would like it. http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/gallery/2013/oct/11/prairie-garden

  3. Ed May says:

    Chris, my dad once said there was an old adage that the wider the stripe on the wooly bear caterpillar the more severe will be the upcoming winter. Have you ever heard that one?

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Chris Helzer says:

      Ed, yes, that’s a common legend. No data to support it as far as I know… I’m pretty sure caterpillars don’t have any more insight into predicting the weather than we do!

  4. Judith Deaton says:

    Our wooly bears are usually all black with a slight hint of rusty color from time to time. Great childhood memories of discussions on whether or not to pick them up. I have only recently heard of the winter adage recently as ours don’t have rusty bands!

  5. Jacob says:

    I didn’t know that bugs could survive being frozen.

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