A Plea from The Banded Woolly Bear Caterpillar “Leave the Leaves!”

I'm the Party Hearty of the insect world. Parties, festivals, and jamborees are held in my honour all over North America. Forget Onkel Hans - I'm the leading act in Ohio's largest one-day festival. Those Americans sure know how to throw a party! Even Torontonians think I'm cool - the Toronto Zoo showcased me in their Woolly Bear Festival. Read 'em and weep, polar bears.

I don’t bite, lack stingers, and am not considered a pest in the garden or the farm. Read more to discover why I am known as “The Weather Worm”.

I'm kind of the Ground Hog of Autumn. Rumour has it that I can predict winter weather patterns better than Pangu Weather. According to folklore, the wider my rust-coloured bands the milder the winter. 

As an exotic insect, I may look warm and fuzzy, but that's not entirely true. I am fuzzy, but my hair helps me to freeze, not keep warm! I'm actually getting ready to freeze my butt off shortly. But first, I'm heading for shelter under a log or leaf pile.

When Ol' Man Winter arrives, I will literally freeze solid. First, my heart will stop beating. Then my gut will freeze, followed by my blood, and then the rest of my body. I won't die because I produce a cryoprotectant, a kind of natural antifreeze. I'll wake up in the spring, have a snack and then, I will spin a cocoon and emerge as a gorgeous (if I do say so myself) Isabella Tiger Moth. My life, as a moth, will be short and sweet - about a week.

So, now that you have heard my life story, I'm going to give you October's Homeowner's Tip. When you're putting your garden beds to sleep this month, please don't rake your leaves to the curb for the city to pick up. Leaves are not litter. I need all the help I can get. Rake your leaves into your gardens where they will insulate plant roots, build living soil, sustain birds, and protect overwintering pollinators like me. Leave the leaves!

"We kill all the caterpillars, then complain there are no butterflies" ~ John Marsden

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