Nutrition & Diet

Woolly bear caterpillars are herbivores who love to snack on host plants such as wild flowers, clover patches, dandelions, corn, and other plants that are low to the ground. They can also be found nibbling on the leaves of maple and birch trees. As mentioned in the Habitat section, woolly bears are not known as pests and therefore do not usually feed on crops or decorative landscaping trees. These critters spend most of their lifetime eating, until they retract to their cocoons in the spring and enter into hibernation in the fall (Ohio Department of Natural Resources).

Woolly Bears have an open circulatory system which allows them to make adaptations to the cold winter months during hibernation (Layne 1999). This allows them to be able to survive without routinely consuming nutrients. Read more abut this fascinating feature in the adaptation section!

One unique additional feature of the wooly bear is it's ability to self-medicate when infected with certain parasites. It does this by eating the leaves of certain plants to fill its stomach with alkaloids, which then cure the caterpillar of the parasites. Although scientists are not yet sure how this process fully works, there is much evidence supporting this phenomenon (National Geographic 2009).



        See about what happens when the Woolly Bear goes through metamorphosis next in            Life Cycle and Reproduction.

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