What do Wooly Bear Caterpillars Eat
If you are trying to predict the winter weather, some might suggest looking closely at the coloring of a wooly bear caterpillar. Wooly bear caterpillars have bodies that are covered with 13 bands of stiff hair. The bands are black on the outside and brown in the middle. A common myth is that the number of black and brown bands on a wooly bear caterpillar will determine how mild or harsh an upcoming winter will be. Actually, the coloring of a wooly bear caterpillar can have a lot do do with what it eats. So what do wooly bear caterpillars eat?
Clover is the most popular plant to feed a wooly bear caterpillar, however most caterpillars start out eating their host plants, or the plants on which they are born. Some of the host plants for wooly bear caterpillars include birch, sunflower, maple and aster. Wooly bear caterpillars are also known to eat herbs, grass, weeds, nettles and dandelions. On a picnic, you could share spinach or cabbage with a wooly bear caterpillar.
The eating habits of a wooly bear caterpillar can also provide health benefits. For example, one threat to the wooly bear caterpillar is parasites like fly larvae. But when wooly bear caterpillars eat plats that contain alkaloids, which are natural chemicals, it can prevent and eliminate parasite problems.
Born in warm months, wooly bear caterpillars will molt, or shed, up to six times before they grow into their full size. Each time a a wooly bear caterpillar sheds, it gets bigger and has fewer black bands on its body. During the winter months, wooly bear caterpillars do not need to eat. Instead, they hibernate, or sleep, in a safe spot all winter long. When spring returns, wooly bear caterpillars wake up and eat again before entering the next stage of their lives.