Bondi Resort Blog

Come on into our Blog for a look at the wonderful world we've got to share! With over 240 hectares (600 acres) of wilderness woodlands surrounding the resort, just ten minutes from Algonquin Park, we feature over 400 metres (1200’) of waterfront and beach; boat rentals; summer hiking trails winding through fields and woods; 20 km. of groomed cross country ski trails and snowshoeing in winter; access to nearby snowmobile trails for sledders, and a toboggan hill for the young at heart.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Fuzzy Isabella

This Woolly Bear Caterpillar (also known as Fuzzy Bear, Wooly Worm and Hedgehog Caterpillar) is a common sight, especially at this time of year as they search out somewhere comfy to spend the winter.

They're not particularly picky -- under a rock, under a log, in the stable...  Their fuzzy coats produce a natural antifreeze, which lets these little guys withstand temperatures close to -90 below. That would be far more than I could withstand, let me add.

In the spring they warm up, eat a bit, make a cocoon, and eventually emerge as the Isabella Tiger Moth. The moths lay their eggs and the cycle starts again -- usually two or three generations during the summer lead up to these little chaps, the last in the season, who are the ones which overwinter.  Preferred food items are birch, elm, maples, asters, sunflowers, spinach, cabbage, grass,  and plantain, so there's no shortage of habitat for them here!

Weather predictors have long been fans of the woolly bear caterpillar as an indicator of the season ahead.  Woolly worms have very tiny eyes and a limited range of sight. They pass through up to 6 larval stages before reaching the stage most see in the fall; during which the color and size of its bands on the 13 body segments may change. It is those 13 bands that folklorists use to help predict the weather. According to folklore:
- The amount of black in the fall varies proportionately with the severity of the
upcoming winter
- The longer the black bands, the longer, colder, snowier and more severe the winter will be.
- And the position of the bands indicates which parts of winter will be the coldest
      - If the head is dark, the winter starts out severe
      - If the tail is dark, the end will be cold
- Since the Woolly Bear has 13 body segments, folklorists believe that each segment
corresponds to one of the 13 weeks of winter. So reading each band could conceivably forecast each week of the winter.

Other signs include thicker coats meaning colder winters and if they seem to be traveling south, they are trying to escape the cold conditions of the north. If they are traveling north, however, it indicates a milder winter.

All of which is well and good.  Our little chap seems to be heading up the side of the barn, but on the South wall -- could that mean a mild winter or a desire to get into the hayloft?  There's more black at the head than at the tail -- which may bode well for skiers and skaters coming to Bondi for Christmas.

Of course, science takes a less romantic view of the colour and its meaning, which is actually based on how long the caterpillar has been feeding, its age and, of course, the species. The better the growing season, the bigger it will grow and this results in a narrower red-orange band in its middle. So, the width of the banding is really an indicator of the current or past season’s growth, rather than an indicator of the severity of the upcoming winter. You could more reliably use them to "predict" the long hot summer that has just gone by...  And as these caterpillars may molt as many as 6 times before reaching adult size and the colors will change with each molt, they become less black and more reddish.

We prefer to enjoy them for what they are, really cool little caterpillars.  We're not buying boots or snowmobiles based on their colouration or direction of travel. We do, however, buy the occasional lottery ticket, so don't think we are beyond dabling in the arcane arts!  When it comes to weather predictions though, we like to stick to the tried and true weather rock.  It sits just outside the door. If it's wet, it's raining. If it's covered in frost, it's cold. If it's dry and warm, it's sunny... and it is never wrong.

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