Woolly Bear caterpillars live in the Arctic Circle and spend most of the year in a dormant state. When temperatures fall to near zero or sub-zero levels, these caterpillars synthesize glycerol and become dormant. The glycerol is a cryoprotectant that acts as a form of antifreeze in the caterpillar's tissues, allowing it to survive the freezing temperatures.
The caterpillars come out of the dormant state for only one month of the year, in which they feed and prepare for the next dormant session. Because they remain in dormancy for such long periods, these Arctic-dwelling caterpillars have a much longer life-cycle than other caterpillars. Some Woolly Bear caterpillars have survived in the larval stage for over a decade.
More about Woolly Bear caterpillars:
- The Woolly Bear caterpillar is the larval stage of the Isabella Tiger Moth.
- The Woolly Bear caterpillar got its name because it is covered in short stiff hairs that resemble wool.
- There is a popular belief in Canada and the US that the color of a Woolly Bear caterpillar can predict the harshness of winter weather, although there is no scientific proof that this is true.