The world's coolest caterpillar
The woolly bear caterpillar is an unlikely inhabitant of the Canadian Arctic. Matt Swarbrick finds out how these insects manage to survive temperatures as low as -60°C and why they aren't in a rush to reach maturity.
Matt meets a very hairy caterpillar.
As the sun's rays strike out above the horizon causing the retreat of the ice in the Arctic, the woolly bear caterpillar begins to thaw out in its frozen tomb. It comes to life for just a few short weeks, feasting on the brief new growth of Arctic willow before returning to its hibernation chamber.
This is life in the slow lane, living most of the year in suspended animation, prolonging the caterpillar's life cycle and making it one of the most long-lived of insects. It can spend as many as 13 years as a caterpillar, before emerging in the short summer of its 14th and final year as a moth.
Whilst tramping through the mud of the Amazon rainforest, Chadden Hunter came across another insect in its larval stage. But this one had buried itself in his leg. Watch Chadden's botfly horror.
Published 9 February 2010