Wooly bear caterpillars eat clover, grasses, dandelions and weeds. As a generalist species, the wooly bear caterpillar feeds on a variety of forbs and herbs, but it does not typically harm vegetables or ornamental plants.
The wooly bear caterpillar emerges from the Isabella tiger moth and is found in various cold regions throughout the world, including in the Arctic. The larva of the caterpillar emerges from the egg during the fall of the year, and then it overwinters and freezes solid in the caterpillar form. Once spring arrives, it thaws out and emerges. Once it has emerged as a moth, it has a few days in which it must find a mate.
Wooly bear caterpillars are associated with a fair amount of folklore in the eastern United States and Canada, where several festivals have sprung up in their honor. It is purported that the width of a stripe on the caterpillar's back is indicative of upcoming weather. The caterpillar, which is seen in abundance in this region during the fall, bears a thick brown stripe on its back if the winter ahead will be mild; a narrow stripe indicates a bad winter ahead. Festivals are held in places that include Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Canada. One festival in Beattyville, Ky., features a race between wooly bear caterpillars.