Crossing the Country Road

For the last couple of weeks I’ve seen at least 30 banded woollybears (Pyrrharctia isabella) crossing the country roads every time I’ve been out on my lunch time walks. One of my colleagues has taken to rescuing these cute little caterpillars and moves them from the middle of the road to the safety of the shoulder. They curl up in a tight little ball when disturbed, a defensive position that maximizes the effectiveness of the long hairs—the hair can be irritating if they get in your eyes so handle with care. Many survive the road crossing, many do not.

Banded Woollybear (Pyrrharctia isabella)
The Banded Woollybear (Pyrrharctia isabella) is a delightful orange and yellow caterpillar.

The banded woollybear is a distinctive “furry” looking caterpillar with prominent orange and black bands. At this time of year the larva are on the move looking for a safe place to overwinter; in the spring they’ll pupate and emerge as Isabella tiger moths in early to midsummer. Caterpillars feed on plants in the plantain family (Plantago spp.), lupine (Lupinus spp.) and dandelions (Taraxacum officinale).

Fingered Dagger Moth (Acronicta hesperida)
The sparse upright black tufts and orange body make the Fingered Dagger Moth (Acronicta hesperida) fairly easy to identify.

I’ve also seen a single Fingered Dagger Moth (Acronicta hesperida) crossing the road out in Merville, British Columbia. Also know as A. dactylina, this caterpillar travels in the fall looking for places to shelter overwinter. It feeds on red alder (Alnus rubra) which is common in places along the country lanes in the Comox Valley.

Now that the rains of November have finally arrived it is likely that it will be much harder to find these two kinds of caterpillars. Listening to the rain pouring down tonight, I can only hope that they are snug and dry underneath a blanket of leaves!