Woolly caterpillars can’t predict winter and 10 other facts you didn’t know

Black and brown wolly bear caterpillarDELAWARE ONLINE — On warm fall days, it can be almost impossible to avoid squishing the fuzzy caterpillars frantically crossing the road.

Black and brown banded woolly bear caterpillars, also known as woolly worms, are one of thousands of caterpillars found in the Mid-Atlantic. But they win the prize for one of the fastest moving of their kind in Delaware – and it is not because they’re racing to the polls.

And while tall tales say their coloration is a sure sign of how bleak the upcoming winter will be (the story is that thicker the woolly bear’s brown band, the milder the season ahead), scientists have debunked that myth.

“There’s a lot of genetic variability in populations … the band width is varying,” said Doug Tallamy, a University of Delaware entomologist and advocate for native plants and wildlife. “Just like humans, we have different hair colors and different eye colors, and that doesn’t mean we had a lot to eat or that the winter is going to be bad.” Read the full article on Delaware Online.