Woolly bear caterpillars -- fuzzy black caterpillars with a reddish-brown band around the centre -- are the larvae of the Isabella moth. The caterpillar's cute fuzzy appearance is appealing to children, who frequently keep them as temporary pets. To ensure the health of the woolly bear, it is crucial to supply it with the proper food and humidity during its larva stage. With the right care, the caterpillar will transform into an Isabella moth in the spring.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Things you need
- Potting soil
- Clear glass aquarium or similar 1-gallon container
- Small branch
- Fresh leaves
- Spray bottle
- Metal screen
Add two or three inches of potting soil to the aquarium to simulate the caterpillar's natural ground environment.
Wedge a small branch diagonally across a glass container to provide a place for the caterpillar to crawl and pupate.
Place fresh leaves in the cage -- woolly bears like dandelion, violet and lamb's-quarters -- and replace with fresh leaves every few days.
Mist the aquarium with fresh water once a day. Avoid overwatering, because the caterpillar can drown in large puddles. Do not place dishes of water in the container, as this also presents a drowning hazard.
Gently place the woolly bear in the aquarium and cover the container with a metal screen to allow ventilation.
Clean the cage every day or two to remove caterpillar waste.
Place dry leaves over the woolly bear in the winter, when it stops eating leaves and becomes slower. Place the container in an unheated garage or bury the sides in the ground in a low-traffic area. Do not bury the top of the container, just cover it with dry leaves.
Recover the cage in late April to May. There should be a pupa inside. Release the moth outside when it emerges from the pupa.
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- University of Illinois Extension; How to Care for Wooly Worms; Greg Stack
- Iowa State University; Why Did the Caterpillar Cross the Road?; Laura Jesse; November 2005
- Ohio State University Extension; Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick: Woolly Bear Care; Kurt Knebusch; November 2003
- MadSci Network; Raising a Wooly Bear Caterpillar; June Wingert