How to identify woolly bear fuzzy caterpillars

Written by christine bryant
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How to identify woolly bear fuzzy caterpillars
The woolly bear caterpillar features a rusty orange-coloured band with black tips. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Woolly bear caterpillars are known by several names, including the fuzzy bear and hedgehog caterpillar. They all have one thing in common, however -- their fuzzy appearance. The woolly bear caterpillar most often appears in the fall, and has specific markings that allow outdoor enthusiasts to identify it. To distinguish a woolly bear caterpillar from another caterpillar, look at its colour, its body features and where it was found.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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  1. 1

    Examine the colour. Woolly bear caterpillars usually are two-toned, with a rusty orange-coloured band in the middle and black tips at the ends. The width of the bands may vary, but are always in a black-orange-black pattern.

  2. 2

    Look at the caterpillar's body features. Woolly bear caterpillars have 13 segments to their bodies, each covered in fuzz. They also have tiny eyes, often hidden by the fuzzy exterior.

  3. 3

    Take note of the environment in which the caterpillar was found. They often are seen in the fall in areas of the country that experience seasonal weather, and may be found under logs and bark -- locations where they spend the winter months. They also may be seen in the spring for a short period of time before they begin forming their cocoons -- eventually turning into tiger moths.

  4. 4

    Check what the caterpillar is eating. If observed while eating, woolly bear caterpillars typically eat herbs, clovers, grass and other greens. Occasionally, according to Iowa State University Entomology, they may be cannibalistic.

  5. 5

    Look at the habitat. When active, woolly bear caterpillars often are found along the edges of roads, and in meadows, uncultivated fields and pastures.

Tips and warnings

  • Woolly bear caterpillars are not poisonous.

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