Monday, September 19, 2011

September 19: Caterpillar

First thing in the morning I like to look out the front window to see the sun rising up over the edge of Mount Battie, to greet the day and get a sense of what the day's weather is. This morning, the mountain was draped with clouds seemingly in the process of dissipating. Out the back window, a crisp, clear blue sky hints of another beautiful day, a perfect day for getting on a boat and heading out to Monhegan.

When I looked out the window, I noticed a woolly bear caterpillar inching across our front walk. Another creature on a journey today. It was going at a pretty good clip. I paused to watch it for a while, then went into the kitchen. A few minutes later, when I looked again, it was gone, lost somewhere in the forest of grass.

It's that time of year when woolly bears roam around eating and looking for a good place to spend the winter. I've been noticing quite a few of them recently. They'll tuck into a piece of bark or curl up under some leaves and overwinter. Similar to hibernating frogs, woolly bears produce a substance in their bodies similar to antifreeze, which helps keep them from freezing solid in the winter. Come spring, the caterpillar will spin a cocoon and later emerge as an Isabella tiger moth.

As a kid, I remember being told that woolly bear caterpillars can predict how harsh the coming winter will be. The caterpillar has black bands at either end with a rusty brown band in the middle. The more black, the worse the winter, if I remember it right. While this has been pretty much debunked by science, one thing's for sure: when you start seeing woolly bears wandering around looking for a place to hole up,  winter is right around the corner.

Not yet equinox,
but I shiver. Woolly bears
seek out winter homes.

No comments:

Post a Comment