Our kids have had fun learning about various life cycles, including the ladybug. Check out our ladybug life cycle song if you missed it. They also love the classic butterfly life cycle. So, this time, I decided to focus on an odd, but extremely cute caterpillar who later emerges as a moth. Unlike other caterpillars who have very short life spans, this one has been reported to live up to 14 years. We live far from their habitat in the tundra, so we made our own using simple craft supplies.
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Science Fun-Learning About the Woolly Bear Caterpillar
Share these fun facts with the children:
- Woolly Bear Caterpillars live in the tundra, one of the coldest harshest environments.
- They are able to freeze without their cells dying during the long cold season. If you would like an explanation as to how Woolly Bear Caterpillars can freeze without cell death, you can check out this post on the Scientific American blog. The explanation goes beyond what most young children would understand.
- Their hearts stop beating when they are frozen and start up again when they thaw.
- They eat as much as they can each time the weather warms, but it is not enough, so they nestle down under a rock or log and freeze until the next time it is warm enough to emerge.
- They repeat this cycle for years until they are ready to spin a silk cocoons around themselves. They later emerge as a fully formed moth.
- There was a legend that the color of the Woolly Bear Caterpillar was predictive of how harsh the winter would be. The more dark coloring, the harsher the winter, and the more light coloring signaled an easier winter season. Watch the videos below to find out more and see the Woolly Bear Caterpillars:
This video shows the Woolly Bear moving about searching for food:
People have long believed the myth that the Woolly Bear Caterpillar can predict the harshness of Winter by the lighter or darker color of the fur-like covering.
The BBC has a great video about the Woolly Bear Caterpillar entitled Freeze Thaw Moths which you can check out online and may wish to share with your children.
Make your own Woolly Bear Caterpillar and freeze it:
You Will Need:
- One jumbo brown chenille stem (which will make many caterpillars, likely enough for a whole class).
- Ziploc bag (You could do this experiment with one woolly bear caterpillar and then pass it around to all the students so you do not need to freeze them all and they can take them home).
Take the jumbo chenille stem and cut it into small caterpillar size pieces (one for each child and one to freeze). Let the children explore their caterpillars and play with them. Our children immediately developed a ‘relationship’ with their caterpillars.
It looks pretty real, doesn’t it?
Next, soak one of the caterpillars in water and place it in a Ziploc bag. Freeze it. When it comes out of the freezer, it should have ice crystals on it. Talk about how the woolly bear caterpillar freezes underneath a rock or log then thaws and resumes lifelike behavior. Allow the children to feel the frozen caterpillar as you discuss the way that the fur-like covering scares away predators with the color combination and anticipation of a mouth full of fur.
Here, they are holding the frozen caterpillar and feeling the way the texture changes:
Check out these Arctic Tundra ThemedLearning Activities from The Early Childhood Education Team-#TeachECE:
Arctic Animal Sensory Writing Tray by Fun-A-Day
Home-made Books: Tundra by Powerful Mothering
Why Are Polar Bears White? | Animal Adaptations on the Arctic Tundra by Raising Lifelong Learners
Tundra Animal Sharing and Halving by Rainy Day Mum
Arctic Animal Matching Games by Life Over C’s
Arctic Animals Preschool Science: Blubber and Ice Explorations! By The Preschool Toolbox Blog
Science Fun-Learning About the Woolly Bear Caterpillar by Capri + 3
Arctic Preschool Letter Hunt by Learning 2 Walk
Polar Bear Sound Activity by Growing Book by Book