Nugget of Knowledge: Woolly bear myth

Woolly bears don't retreat during the winter months. Instead, they freeze and will appear dead.

(WYTV) – Do woolly bears predict winter weather?

Woolly bears, also called woolly worms or hedgehog caterpillars, are the larvae stage of the tiger moth.

They have black and brown bands.

Folklore tells us that the wider the black bands, the harsher the upcoming winter will be. Wide brown bands mean a milder winter.

Here’s the truth: scientists have never found any link between the banded worms and the weather. Caterpillars from the same area, and even from the same hatch, often have very different banding.

The black and brown banding has more to do with the caterpillar’s age and how much it’s been eating.

While most caterpillars retreat into cocoons during winter, the woolly bear does not. He laughs at blizzards.

This caterpillar remains in cold areas and literally begins to freeze. Its little heart stops beating and it will appear dead.

It’s not. Its body produces a kind of antifreeze called glycerol that shields its vital organs and cells from the worst effects of the cold — all the way down to 90 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

When spring arrives, the little creatures thaw and go on their way, soon to become Tiger moths.

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