Thursday, September 27, 2012

Woolly Bear Caterpillar

On Saturday (which happened to be the first day of fall) we went on a little walk... as we were out and about we ran into our first woolly bear caterpillar of the season!!!  (Imagine extreme excitement here people.  From me, cause these guys are the most adorable insect on earth... like if there's a kitten of the bug world it's these fuzzy little guys.  They are SO cute!  Ok, so I was excited, and my kids were too.  That makes me not a crazy person.  Right?)

I've been looking forward to the woolly bears of fall not only because I love them... but because I found out how you can keep one and watch it turn into a tiger moth.  I've often wondered about this (I've only ever kept Monarch caterpillars which I have shown here, and here, and here oh... and here).  As I'm sure you know monarch caterpillars turn into monarch butterflies through metamorphosis... it is CRAZY to watch them shed their outer skin and come through as a chrysalis.  Woolly bears, on the other hand, turn into tiger moths... that means that they actually spin a cocoon out of silk in which they become the tiger moth. This is a WHOLE DIFFERENT PROCESS, and I can't wait to see it.
I found out all this fantastic information in Caterpillars, Bugs & Butterflies a Young Naturalist Field Guide by Mel Boring.  (There's a whole series of these books which were introduced to me by Vanessa.)
SO, if you want to join my family in this discovery all you have to do is:

1- Find a woolly bear caterpillar.
2- Put it in a jar with air holes.
3- Put a few twigs in the jar and feed it fresh grass everyday.
3- In a couple of weeks it will go to sleep on the bottom of the jar, clear out all the old grass and put your jar outside in a protected place from all the elements of winter.  I think I'll just put him in our shed.
4- In the spring, after the thaw when greens start sprouting your little woolly will wake up hungry, feed him grass everyday.  Soon he will spin a cocoon.
5- After about a week he will become the Isabella tiger moth- time to set him free!

There you have it!  For more detailed information and directions refer to the book (which is filled with lots of other cool insect information too, it's a fun book to read!).

Happy bug collecting! 
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PS If you've done this before please comment and tell me how it went!

This post is linked to The Children's Bookshelf and The Kids Co-op.

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