If you have been taking more walks than normal this spring, then you may have noticed banded woollybear caterpillars crossing the sidewalk. Woollybears are robust, black and orange fuzzy caterpillars. These almost fully-grown caterpillars are seen in the fall as well. Woollybears spend the whole winter as caterpillars so the ones you are seeing now are the same ones you saw last fall (well, probably not the EXACT same caterpillar, but part of the same generation). The ones you are seeing now made it through the whole winter and are now looking for a bit more to eat before they pupate and transform into an adult moth.
Woollybears have two generations per year. One generation occurs during the summer (May-August) and the other occurs late summer through spring (August-May) and is called the overwintering generation. For insects, a generation consists of eggs, immature insects, and adult insects.
Woollybear caterpillars are not poisonous, but their hairs can cause skin irritation, so it is best to avoid handling them much. Once as a child I was using one as a mustache and that was a bad idea! My advice is to step over them, welcome them to spring and wish them well on their upcoming amazing transformation into a moth that can fly through the lovely spring air.
Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Horticulture and Home Pest News, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on April 10, 2020. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.