Why did the Woolly Bear cross the road?

Oct. 09, 2013 @ 05:04 AM

I’ve been seeing them for the past few weeks now, more prominent than squirrels or groundhogs, the woolly bear caterpillars are out in force and on the move.

However, it seems where I’ve see them the most is halfway across the yellow line while driving.

Day after day, morning to evening, chances are high that I will have to swerve to dodge more than a few of these fuzzy travelers. At first I chalked it up to luck that I had noticed the first couple slowly inching across, but soon found that I had unknowingly began to develop a keen eye for spotting these small red woollies even at 45 mph.

Sporting their trademark reddish-brown and black coat, the woolly bear caterpillar is the larval form of the Isabella tiger moth, a medium-size moth, with yellowish-orange and cream-colored wings spotted with black specks.

Having hatched during warm weather from a female moths’ eggs, the caterpillars are seen in such great numbers in the fall due to the need to find an acceptable site to settle for the winter. Their search for rock cavities, log interiors or thick tree bark is the main reason so many are seen crossing highways and sidewalks.

The larva goes through an overwintering process in which it literally freezes solid, only to emerge in the spring to pupate and begin the transformation into a full-grown moths.

Now I’ll admit, I knew very little about these guys prior to writing this column but after successfully dodging another one only yesterday, I figured it was time to find out what their deal was.

One interesting fact I came across was that along with their color making them one of the most recognizable caterpillars in North America, it also was the inspiration for folklore pertaining to the prediction of the amount of forthcoming winter weather.

In the end, although hard to spot while driving, I would just like to urge you to keep an eye out for these little fuzzy larvas the next time your traveling down the road. As long as nothing is coming and you can safely dodge please try and keep these guys between the tires, not under them.

Well, looks like I got time for one more insect, so lets dive right into one that seems to have mounted it’s own invasion upon us, yes... you guessed it... I’m referring to the stink bug.

With a name derived from a tendency to eject a foul smelling glandular substance from pores in the thorax when disturbed, the stink bug is harmless to humans but can be an agricultural pest in great numbers.

They seem to be a double edge sword however, as they are also a predator of other insects such as Japanese beetles which have a history of devastating crops as well.

The brown marmorated stink bug, like the one pictured, are native to East Asia but were introduced to eastern North America in 1998.

I personally don’t have a problem with these guys, as I would with say... cockroaches; they seem to come across as more of a stumbling nuisance than a disgusting bother. But I also don’t have crops of my own under attack and can see where these little stinkers could be quite the trouble.

Like most of you I have started noticing these guys hanging out on window screens, doors, and houses. Even had one try and hitch a ride on my elbow the other day until it decided my car’s roof was a much better mode of transportation.

Seems the stink bugs and the woolly bear caterpillars do share one thing, over-activeness in the fall.

And with the seasons finally starting to change, we can expect for at least the next little bit to share Rutherford County with our little friends regardless of their color or odor.

I say, why let them “bug” you, it’s all part of the show.