Our Woolly Bear Adventure

We have acquired quite a few temporary pets from the outdoors this year.

Let's see... there was "Sweetheart" the Lady Bug, "Little Ant" the green worm, and definitely dearest to E's heart has been "Max" the Woolly Bear caterpillar.

Grandma P brought this furry little caterpillar to E while we were visiting the farm and he turned into quite a science adventure!

After identifying him as a Woolly Bear caterpillar, we looked into what Max would need to eat, what his life cycle is like and where he needs to live.

Because we aren't too fancy, he lived in our old goldfish bowl (yes, the fish named "Baby Daddy):

What We Learned About Our Woolly Bear:

1. Legend has it that these color bands were a prediction of the coming winter weather. A thicker black band would mean severe weather while a thicker brown band meant mild weather. Thankfully this isn't a reliable weather prediction because, according to Max, we would have severe winter weather coming our way!

2. The Woolly Bear is the caterpillar form of the Tiger Moth. Their bodies are able to "freeze" over the winter and resume normal life in the Spring because of a cryoprotectant in its tissues. Isn't that crazy?!

3. Woolly Bear caterpillars eat many plant varieties. They do prefer bitter herbs such as milkweed. To water the caterpillar, we sprinkled a little rainwater in his "vase habitat".

4. We hope to catch another "Max" when Spring arrives. Because our winters are so long here, it's best to catch a Woolly Bear when the weather is warming up so he can be released into nice weather. Keeping him alive (and safe from toddlers) for 6 months is asking a lot!

5. This is the ONLY Woolly Bear I hope to encounter in the woods. Real bears make me much more nervous ;)

Both of the kids loved watching Max when he was active.

These caterpillars do tend to sleep during the day and be active at night, but they were able to watch him climb around some. And E got to hold him before releasing him back into the "wild".

We did release Max after a week and hope to revisit this in the Spring! Living in our area of the northern states, my concern was that our Woolly Bear would cocoon himself too early and emerge while it was still quite icy and cold here. While we can keep his caterpillar form indoors, we can't keep him indoors in moth form.

In honor of our Woolly Bear, E made his own caterpillar and I appreciate that this one doesn't require feeding or habitat cleaning. Clearly this guy was inspired by the "Hungry Caterpillar" book!

Well, that was our first Woolly Bear Adventure! I hope Max has found himself a safe place to freeze for the winter. Who knows, maybe we'll find him again in the spring ;)

Have you cared for a caterpillar from larva to adult?
What has been your child's most interesting "pet"?

Helpful Woolly Bear Resources:
How to Care for Woolly Bear Caterpillars
The Myth of The Woolly Bear
Woolly Bear Caterpillars at Discovery.com

Joining in the Preschool & Kindergarten Community Weekly Link-Up and Mommy Moments.


  1. this is so fun! we have a snail named "Scaredy" and we're hoping it will eventually lay eggs. They're easy pets :)

    I was actually going to comment that I grew up hearing that the black meant a long winter, but you're well-researched!
    I love this kind of learning!

    1. Raising baby snails would be a GREAT learning experience! And, yes, super easy pet. A whole lot easier than getting another dog :) Maybe we should try a snail, too!


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