My quest this morning for a photo or two of a woolly bear for this post was not successful. I’m wondering if the beautiful temperatures of late have sent them back under leaves and cooler places. I have noticed a few woolly bear caterpillars as recently as a week ago, before this story popped into my head, therefore before I had a requirement for pictures. Also, I witnessed a beautifully pink sky this morning as the sun crested my neighbour’s roof and wonder if caterpillars know to take cover when a storm is brewing? I bet they do. I will update my post with appropriate photos on a later date but for now…. I’ve borrowed pictures from online sites.
“Teddy Bear” Caterpillar found himself in need of a room at the Insect Inn after a very long journey from Wooler, where he and many other Woolly Bear caterpillars live. He was on his way to Fleemschloogin to visit his sister May Beary and had travelled as far as his little legs and prolegs would take him. They were all in need of a good soak in some Epsom salts. After a night’s rest, he would continue to Fleemschloogin.
Teddy doesn’t visit May very often. It is very far and Teddy doesn’t like to travel. He’s a regular home-body. He loves his village. It has everything he needs and everything he might not need but wants. He knows everyone – mostly because all his relatives besides May live in Wooler so he sees them whenever he wants. In fact there are so many Woolly Bear caterpillars in his village that the original name for the town was recently changed from Fropdissle to Wooler in a plebiscite vote. Of course, all the Woolly Bears thought the name Wooler was a fantastic name. All the other insects liked the new name too and the vote was almost unanimous. No one could even recall why it was called Fropdissle in the first place, and with the new name of “Wooler,” they would always know how their village name originated… Wooler, for all the Woolly Bear caterpillar residents. Besides it was much easier to spell and pronounce. (*Author’s closest village growing up was Wooler, Ontario, Canada)
May is Teddy’s only sister and he misses her so much and makes the journey as often as he can. Thankfully, as is always the case, there is a wonderful room awaiting Teddy on the ground floor of the Insect Inn. Teddy doesn’t have to climb steps with his aching legs and feet.
After unpacking and washing up, he entered the Dining Hall for dinner and has a good natter with a debonair Bumble Bee named Belvedere who always wears a cravat to dinner. Belvedere, Teddy hears, follows the “dress code” of yesteryear.
“One does not come to the dinner table dressed slovenly,” Belvedere says. Teddy hopes he’s dressed OK in his fur coat. Unfortunately he didn’t bring, nor does he own, a cravat. Teddy has never seen a bee wearing a cravat before. He supposes if he can wear a fur coat everywhere he goes, a bee can wear a cravat to dinner. It seems fair. The chap did look quite dashing.
With great effort, he switches his focus from staring at Belvedere to listening to him. He learns all about Oh Valley, its history and its residents. So many Oh Valley details captured his attention, that by the end of dinner, Teddy didn’t even notice that Belvedere was wearing a cravat. It wasn’t important.
After a filling breakfast, Teddy says goodbye to Belvedere and some other residents in the dining room and continues his journey to Fleemschloogin. He should be there in time for lunch. The Insect Inn’s Continental Breakfast of steaming compost and Thistle Drip was fine but he is already looking forward to his sister’s meal. She always has the best meals prepared for him when he arrives. He’d visit her anyway but it’s a nice bonus that she is such a good cook. Her jellied Snarlguk is legendary. She brings it to Wooler whenever she comes home though she generally reserves it for special occasions. He hopes May thinks his visit qualifies as a special occasion. Jellied Snarlguk, YUM!
Over a glass each of Thistle Drip, May and Teddy contemplate how their lives are changing. They discuss whether the winter will be long or short. They can’t seem to tell as May has a very wide brown middle stripe but Teddy has a much smaller brown stripe. It doesn’t really matter anyway because they’ll both be frozen solid all winter long and thaw again in the Spring when the weather warms.
***This is very true. Woolly Bear Caterpillars, like some frogs, have the ability to remain alive in a totally frozen state. They have a special “antifreeze” flowing in their circulatory fluid, hemolymph, that allows them to freeze solidly but return to munching on plant leaves in spring when the temperatures rise. Pretty darn cool if you ask me! But I wonder… Do they feel how cold it is when they’re frozen like a furry, round popsicle?
May – being older has recently been notified by the Caterpillar-to-Moth Swap Shop that she will be changing her name to “Isabella Tiger Moth” very soon.” She doesn’t need to get a license or anything. She will wake up one day and emerge from her cocoon with a new body and a new name to go with it. Teddy. is very perplexed.
“Why would you want to do that, May?” Don’t you like your name?
I don’t have a choice Teddy, It happens to all of us. It will happen to you, too.
“But I’m happy to be Teddy Bear Caterpillar.” I don’t want to change. I have everything I need in Wooler, all our family and friends, except you, of course. If I promise to visit more often, will you stay as you are?”
“Oh Teddy. You really are a good brother and I love you to bits but I think I need to explain further. When I emerge from my cocoon this time, I will have wings and I will be able to fly to visit you and everyone in Wooler. I will be able to visit whenever I like. When I become “Isabella Tiger Moth,” I will have so much more mobility and freedom. I am looking forward to it. You should too. When you become a moth, you can fly to visit me in Fleemschloogin… . I’m told to expect that I may not prefer to eat the foods I currently enjoy. That will happen for you too. You might not like my jellied Snarlguk once you become an Isabella Tiger Moth.” **
“Whoa!… Stop right there! You mean I have to be called Isabella too?” Teddy thinks that this is another very good reason NOT to become a moth. He didn’t want a girl’s name!
May laughs. Her little brother does have a point. “How would it be if everyone called you, ‘Tiger’, instead? Would that be OK?
Teddy thought about this. “Tiger, yes, that would be great. I might even like that better than Teddy. Besides, tigers have stripes, just like I do.. same colours too!”
“Tiger,” it is then, my little bro.
Teddy stayed with May for a few more days but noticed the nights were getting colder. He waved goodbye to May and headed back home to Wooler with another stop at the Insect Inn to visit Belvedere. He wanted to let Belvedere know what he learned from May. He wasn’t sure when it would happen but he wanted to be certain that Belvedere would recognize him next time if he’d already become a moth. He liked the older Bumble Bee so much he might even stop in for a short visit and catch-up though he wouldn’t need the rest… having new, beautiful wings.
When Teddy finally reached Wooler, he spun his cocoon and in the safety of his beloved village, curled up and prepared to freeze the winter away.
Speaking for myself, I need to find my woolies and be sure they still fit. Can you help Mom or Dad get your warmer clothes out and be ready for winter too. I bet you’ve grown. 🙂
Sue, Axie and The Fancifulls of Oh Valley.
The following paragraph is possibly not a paragraph for the younger children… kind of scary.
** Another Truism , Isabella Tiger Moths, like many moths do not eat. They do not have mouth parts. They have stored energy, carried through metamorphosis, that will allow them to survive for a very short period of time.
Clothing Moths did not eat your favourite cashmere sweater or linen pants. However, their larvae, hatched from eggs, laid by the adult, have voracious appetites. It is best to store your organic threaded clothing clean… dry-cleaned to be precise as larvae are attracted to the oils from sweat and all other microscopic soil we leave behind after wearing, “only a couple of hours.”
Adult moths are sustained for only a short life, by energy retained from larval internal food stores and die within a couple of days of their metamorphosis. Their only objective is to mate and lay eggs for the next generation of moths. So sad… but in actuality, humans do the same thing just on a different time scale. We get to eat and enjoy life as we find our mate and have children and they have children…. well you know how that goes. Even so, we have it far better than Teddy and he’s pretty happy about his lot in life.
May I offer you a wish that you are able to recognize the goodness in your life and find that perfect mate.
Sue, Axie and the Fancifulls of Oh Valley
(Update June 21, 2020 – Once I knew the life-cycle of a moth, my heart went out to them. One day, last fall while preparing copper dragonflies under a heat lamp, a moth landed on me and I didn’t have the heart to shoo it away. I remained still for 25 minutes until it decided to fly off on his own. It could easily be a relative of Cinch as it is in the Family of Geometrid Moths – adult Inchworms. I am right handed. it was a struggle taking this picture with only my left hand to focus and snap without disturbing him.)