Survival of the Woolly Bear Caterpillar Living in the Arctic Circle

All around the world, there are animals who live in habitats that humans wouldn’t be able to, and who are adapted perfectly to their homes. In this vein, you might not think that moths would be able to survive in the extreme cold because they’re too small or too weak, but you’d be wrong. At least, in this instance. The Arctic Woolly Bear Moth lives in Northern Canada and Greenland, inside the Arctic Circle. These are some of the harshest conditions in the world. All moths need to feed constantly after they hatch, the Woolly Bear even more so. They need all the food they can get to survive the cold. However, there isn’t very much food, if any at all, over the winter. Other species of animals might save up enough food to get themselves through, or hibernate. But not this moth. During the winter, the Arctic Woolly Moth literally freezes. The moths rely on cryoprotectant (or anti-freeze), based on sugars in their bodies, in order to survive being frozen. Some moths have been found frozen in temperatures around 70 degrees below freezing. Some types of frogs and fish also freeze during the winters in the same way.

Arctic Woolly Bear Catepillar
Woolly Bear Moth Caterpillar

The Arctic Woolly Bear can live up to seven summers. They spend about 90% of their lives frozen, though during June, they eat and eat in order to prepare for the next winter, which has just left and is about ready to come again. Near the end of their lives, the caterpillar turns into a full-grown moth. When this happens, they have a few days to reproduce before they die. This is because they lack mouthparts in their adult forms, and so cannot eat. This means that they also don’t have the ability to pollinate. This means that they spend the vast majority of their life in the caterpillar stage of life, rather than it being only about half of their life.

These moths are mostly grey, with black on their wings. But why is it called a “Woolly Bear” moth, you might ask? That is because of the thick spines that cover their bodies. This makes it look like they are covered in hair. While most spines in other species are poisonous or cause irritation, these aren’t. They merely protect the caterpillar’s head from predators.

It’s always so interesting to learn about how different animal species have adapted to their environments. The Arctic Woolly Bear Moth is one of the most amazing. I’ve learned about them in a documentary about rare animals years ago, and have been interested to read more about them ever since.

Thank you for reading this blog post. We publish two every week. Be sure to stay tuned for the next one. Until then, goodbye!

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