How to Winter a Wooly Bear Caterpillar

In the fall, have you ever seen one of those furry, black-with-a-stripe-of-orange-in-the-middle caterpillars scurrying down the road?  Have you ever had the urge to collect that caterpillar and winter him, just to see what he’ll turn into come spring?  Have you ever wondered just how to winter a caterpillar?

Well, you have arrived at the right place.  Not that I’ve ever done it before, but thanks to the wonders of the internet I have some answers.

The girls and I have discovered four of these guys in the marigolds lately.  We have brought them in, put them into a jar with more marigold leaves, which they ate voraciously.  Here they are, although I think 2 have already decided to sleep and they aren’t visible. I’ve seen them spelled both woolly bear and wooly bear.

wooly bear caterpillar(Incidentally, I’ve also learned it’s hard to take a clear photo through a glass jar!).

After your caterpillars slow down on their eating, this is a sign they’re preparing for winter.  Remove the remaining food, provide them with a couple of inches of soil to burrow into, cover them with a layer of leaves, and move the jar to an unheated area like the garage.

Apparently they overwinter as caterpillars, and then in the spring emerge as the Isabella Tiger Moth (which unfortunately is not quite as cute as the Wooly Bear Caterpillar, in my humble opinion):

Isabella Tiger Moth

Wikimedia Photo Commons, Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren

You know, we are doing stuff like this all the time, and it reminds me that all parents are really homeschooling to some extent.

How to winter a caterpillar? What has worked for you?


3 thoughts on “How to Winter a Wooly Bear Caterpillar

  1. Every day of life is another day of learning – no matter your age – provided you have the desire/drive.

  2. How timely! We just found ourselves a woolly bear last week and have been feeding her in a mason jar habitat ever since. She doesn’t seem to be eating as much and moves slowly. I kinda worried she was dying.

    I will get her some soil at once..thanks!


  3. My 4 year old son found a wooly bear caterpillar this weekend. Since it is April, do I still get soil for the jar and put him in the garage? I put him into a mason jar with grass, leaves and a stick and of course holes in the lid. The kids are learning about caterpillars in preschool tomorrow. So, with permission from the teacher, we are taking our new friend to school; and mommy is making caterpillar PB+J sandwiches because it is also his snack day. Thanks, Parker’s mom.

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