Despite a dense covering of black and rust-colored spiky hairs, the Banded Woollybear Caterpillar is safe to handle. The head and rear end are black, and a middle 'band' of color may appear red, maroon, or even somewhat brown. The middle band of color expands as this larva matures, replacing the black parts. It is an active caterpillar and moves well.
The diet of this caterpillar consists of mainly weeds, but some flowers, grasses, and tree leaves are eaten as well. Its feeding behaviors do not usually damage the plants, so there is no need to control the population size.
After spending all summer bulking up on foliage, the caterpillars seek shelter under bark, wood stacks, and leaf litter in order to ride out the cold winter either in caterpillar form, or they may create cocoons and overwinter as pupae. They are often seen in autumn when they are searching out a good place to stay during the coldest season. Every fall, Vermillion, Ohio, and Banner Elk, North Carolina, each host a festival in honor of the Woollybear Caterpillar. Legend has it that the center band of color forecasts the length of winter: the wider the band, the longer winter will last. While there is no scientific evidence that such a relationship exists, celebrating the friendly caterpillar has become a fun, annual community event.
The Banded Woollybear Caterpillar becomes the Isabella Tiger Moth, which is also aptly called the Banded Woollybear Caterpillar Moth. One to two generations can be produced in a year.
The map above showcases (in blue) the states and territories of North America where the Banded Woollybear Caterpillar may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data can be useful in seeing concentrations of a particular species over the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some species are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America.*NOTE: States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Banded Woollybear Caterpillar. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.