Woolly Worm Walk

Frabjous Day … spring is finally bursting forth with a few days in the 70s and things are beginning to rock. High points yesterday included my first sightings of Woolly Worms (Woolly Bears) walkin’ along with an excited gait. I managed to videotape one and I even wrote a little poem to suit:

The Woolly Worm, Pyrrharctia isabella, is one of the few moth caterpillars that overwinters before it pupates. The caterpillars literally freeze solid during the winter, but are able to survive with the help of “cryoprotectant” chemicals that act as an antifreeze to protect the tissues.

Isabella Tiger Moth photo (from Wikipedia)

Isabella Tiger Moth

Shortly after emergence in the spring, the caterpillars will find a safe place in which to spin a cocoon. From the cocoon will emerge the “Isabella Tiger Moth,” shown in the accompanying photo (obtained from Wikipedia). Adults live for only a few weeks, during which time they mate and the females lay eggs.

So, here in upstate New York, the Woolly Worms are suddenly appearing all over the place, having weathered the cruel winter just fine. Halleleujah … yet another miracle of spring.

NOTE: Is my poem anthropomorphic? Yep! Unscientific? Yep! Do I care? Nope! Sure, I could write a poem designed to deliver natural history facts, but that’s really not my purpose. If I release myself from a pre-conceived notion of the content of the poem, then something like this might very well pop out. It’s meant to be fun and light-hearted. Kid’s stuff? Well, maybe, but I’m 65-years old and this is coming out of me.

Video Metadata
The Wooly Worm Walk
The Wooly Worm Walk

A fun video of a Woolly Worm, crawling about on the ground in early spring, having just emerged from hibernation. This is one of the few moths that overwinters as a caterpillar. Videotaped on April 13, 2014, near Ithaca, NY. Upload resolution 720p. Copyright Lang Elliott, old-miracle.mystagingwebsite.com.


  1. We call them Woollybears in Ohio, and there is actually an annual Woollybear Festival in Vermilion, Ohio on Lake Erie each fall. This year will be the 42nd festival, and apparently thousands of people attend it.

    I love how you got right down there with the caterpillar so we could really get a sense of how quickly and deliberately it was moving. I’m always pleased to find them, and I’ve moved many from parking lots, sidewalks, and parks trails so they won’t get squished.

  2. Wonderful poem! I wonder if that cryoprotectant “antifreeze” will protect these little guys and gals if the temps drop below freezing AGAIN…

    • Canon XL-20 camcorder, handheld, with a Canon 500D screw-on closeup lens to allow for closer focus. I presume you are interested in learning to do this kind of thing? I’d love to find others who might want to contribute to Miracle of Nature, but who can produced high quality videos (I won’t post anything that doesn’t meet a fairly high standard).

      • I was just taken by the crispness of your imagery. The Canon XL-20 is a prosumer model, proving how far the technology has come; ten years ago, you’d have had to spend $75,000 to achieve that kind of quality which, ten years before that, couldn’t have been had for ANY amount of money.

        As to whether I could someday contribute something worthy of your web site, that’s a dream that’ll have to be deferred. The camera I’ve used for more years than I care to admit is on its last legs, and funds will have to be found to replace it. That Canon XL-20 looks like a good bet!

        • You’re right on with your comments. The revolution is that on a small budget it is possible to do work of amazing quality. I’m riding on the crest of that. Ever since I saw the movie Microcosmos nearly twenty years ago, I’ve wanted to film nature in macro, but only now has technology delivered the affordable tools that I need.

  3. Saw a wooly on a mission while optomistically raking some leaves this weekend. Maybe Spring has actually arrived.

  4. I did not know the cycle of this wee beast before your enlightening post. When I’ve found them curled among logs in the woodpile in winter I’ve assumed they were dead. Now I will carefully remove such sleepers to rest beneath dry leaves. Your vid subject does appear to be on a mission! Love the lyrics. Now, when temp dip to 20-30 F these next few nights, pay no mind, remember winter is officially kaput, this snap a transient anomaly.

    • Lots of folks think they are “dead bugs” when found in the winter. They certain look dead, and seem so light and dried out. Imagine being freeze dried and yet springing back to life when the weather warms?

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