NatureWatch: Why did the woolly bears cross the road?


Q: The woolly bear is probably a tiresome subject for you right now, but I often wonder as I see them while out walking, why so many always seem to be crossing roads. Is for the warmth radiating from sun-warmed surfaces?

ARTHUR (Art), North Adams

A: Ruth Bass, in her latest weekly musing in last Monday's Berkshire Eagle ( has once again provided faithful followers with a much-needed dose of juvenile Isabella moth behavior. Space never allows columnists enough words to explain all in detail. Perhaps that is why some take time to write books.

To answer your question without going far off track, sun-warmed roads, sidewalks and paths have little, and more likely, nothing to do with the juvenile Isabella moth's trajectory, other than making it far more obvious. And my guess is genetics has little to do with the path taken to its "safe spot," where curled up and hidden from most predators beneath a pile of leaves, piece of bark, deep in a cave provided by a tangle of tree roots, or beneath a rock, it will spend the winter days and nights, often frozen solid. Simply put, it crosses a road because the road is in its way.

A little survey I take every autumn, like most everyone else who sees these active little creatures, is to compare the proportion of the cinnamon brown to the black. (Even if we can never remember what it is supposed to mean.) This past month, I have seen about every combination, including one little fellow along Route 7 in Stockbridge entirely cinnamon except for a black head. As usual, the woolly bears are collectively telling us winter will be what it will be.


We sometimes suggest outings from one end of the Berkshires to the other, rarely looking at what is going on in "The heart of the Berkshires," a phrase not used as commonly today, but referring to Pittsfield.

This is one I hope not to miss, "Land and Legends of Springside Park," a hike to be led by local historian Joe Durwin through the Dark Pines and the old reservoir exploring the evolution of the city's largest park over the past 103 years.

Meet at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Doyle Softball Complex on Benedict Road.

Questions and comments for Thom Smith: Email


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions