This easy pom pom activity for kids showcases the woolly bear caterpillar and gives a nature science lesson and craft all rolled into one.
Ah the woolly bear caterpillar…it’s been a favorite bug of children for generations. You can identify this interesting and fast moving (for its size!) caterpillar by the colors…black on either end and brown in the middle.
I remember picking these fuzzy caterpillars up as a kid and them curling up into little furry balls.
Now, as an adult, I try to avoid them as they crawl across the road in the fall, as they are looking for a good place to hibernate for winter.
Yarn crafts are one of my favorite activities as well. And making pom poms into different things such as flowers and trees, and now bugs, is no exception.
So, with autumn approaching quickly, here’s the tutorial for a fun and easy craft you can make with your kiddos (or students if you are a teacher).
But first let’s talk a little about the Woolly Bear caterpillar (also called the Woolly Worm), it’s life cycle, and what makes this bug so dang cool!
Pin me to save this idea! ⬇️
What is the Woolly Worm’s Life Cycle
First, in the spring, the Isabella Tiger Moth which lives for only 1-2 weeks, lays an egg. The Woolly Bear caterpillar emerges from the egg and begins to eat leaves and plants.
The Woolly Bear gradually grows in size over the summer months, but usually, at least around here, you don’t spot them until the fall.
This may be because they’ve grown big enough to make them more noticeable. And also in the autumn months, they are on the move to find winter homes for hibernation.
We’ve found many of these caterpillars under flowerpots or under wood curled into a ball, waiting out the winter months.
After hibernating through the winter months, these cute and fuzzy caterpillars emerge from their hibernation.
In the spring, they eat for a few days to gain some energy before making a cocoon which they stay in for 10-15 days.
The cocoon looks like a dark brown and sparsely hairy, bean-shaped structure (be sure to google a picture to check it out!)
The pupa then emerges from the cocoon as the Isabella Tiger Moth and the life cycle begins all over again.
Here are a few other interesting questions and answers about the fuzzy Woolly Worm.
How Does this Bug Survive the Winter?
In the fall, the caterpillars are on the move looking for sheltered areas to spend their time under during the winter months.
The Woolly Bear caterpillar is covered by tiny black and brown hairs which are called setae. This coat helps to survive the winter by acting as insulation. They curl up into a ball when hibernating so that their coat protects them from the cold.
These little bugs also produce an anti-freeze type of chemical in their bodies called cryoprotectant that helps them withstand the cold temperatures.
Therefore, shelter, insulation called setae, and an anti-freeze like material help these caterpillars survive the winter.
Why is this Caterpillar so Fuzzy?
This fuzzy caterpillar has bristle like hairs called setae. Their hairs are brown in the middle and black on both ends. These hairs provide insulation for the caterpillar during the winter.
The hairs also help to protect them from predators. When they are threatened, they curl up in a ball to protect their softer underbelly, legs and head.
Their coloration also helps them to blend in with their surroundings and acts as a camouflage to protect themselves from predators.
Can this Bug Really Predict the Weather?
Folklore states that the wider the brown band is on these caterpillars, the milder the winter will be. If the black bands are wider, the winter weather will be more severe.
I’ve also heard that if the black band in the front end is longer then the first part of the winter will be more severe. If there is a small area of brown, then the milder part of the winter will be shorter.
It’s a fun activity to find these caterpillars and examine their coats and make predictions about the upcoming winter. However, there is no scientific evidence supporting this.
Where Can I Find this Caterpillar?
These Woolly Worm caterpillars can be found in the regions of Mexico, the United States and Canada.
There are even Woolly Bear festivals in Ohio and North Carolina! This is one popular caterpillar!
For even more science info about this interesting caterpillar visit a-z-animals.com.
Woolly Bear Pom Pom Craft Tutorial
Now that we’ve learned a bit of science behind this interesting bug, let’s take a look at a fun craft to do with the kiddos.
Supplies for Caterpillar Pom Pom Craft
Just a few simple materials are needed for this caterpillar pom-pom craft. And you probably have the scissors and fork on hand!
- Black Yarn (Dollar Tree)
- Brown Yarn (Dollar Tree)
- Fuzzy Sticks (Walmart)
Use a Fork to Make a Pom-Pom with Brown Yarn
First, wrap the brown yarn around the fork about 30 times.
Then, place the pipe cleaner on top of the yarn, perpendicular to the fork.
Using another piece of yarn from the skein, bring it through the middle of the fork tines.
Tie the brown yarn in the center of the pom-pom, and also around the fuzzy stick or pipe cleaner. Don’t knot it just yet!
Next, slide the yarn and pipe cleaner off the fork. Tighten the yarn ends and then make a knot.
You may have to use your finger to keep the string tied tight, while you make the knot. Smaller kids may need help with this step so that the knot is tight.
Use the Scissors to Free the Pom-Pom Ends
Using the scissors, cut around the yarn ball, freeing the ends of the yarn. This creates the pom-pom.
Just be sure not to cut the yarn that’s keeping the pom-pom tied to the fuzzy stick.
This is how it should look from the top so far. One segment is now completed for our caterpillar pom-pom craft!
Add a Black Pom Pom to the Caterpillar
Now take the black yarn and wrap it around the fork about 30 times. We’ll follow the same steps as for the brown one above.
Using another piece of yarn from the skein, tie it around the middle of the pom-pom and also the fuzzy stick.
Then slide the black yarn ball off the fork. Use your finger to tighten the string and then make a knot.
Use the scissors to cut the yarn ball and create the black pom-pom. Now the Woolly Bear caterpillar has both a brown and black segment.
The pom-poms should slide freely on the fuzzy stick.
Add Another Brown and Black Pom-Pom to the Fuzzy Stick
Add another black pom-pom to the fuzzy stick next to the previous black one.
Then add another brown one next to the previous one. We’ll be making six pom-poms to create this Woolly Bear caterpillar.
Add Two More Black Pom Poms to the Other End
Add two more black pom-poms to the other end so that the pattern is two black, two brown, two black.
This is how this fuzzy little weather predictor looks so far. 😉
Finish Up by Tying the Pipe Cleaner at Both Ends
Next up, you’ll push the pom-poms together a bit, and then tie a double knot in the brown fuzzy stick at both ends.
Then clip the remainder of the fuzzy stick off using your scissors.
Now, spread the pom-poms back out, so that the fuzzy stick is less visible. The fuzzy stick know should be toward the underside of the caterpillar.
I used a brown fuzzy stick so it is easier to see, however a black one would blend right in with the yarn!
Completed Woolly Bear Caterpillar Pom Pom Craft
Here’s a picture of the top view of this fuzzy caterpillar.
And the bottom view …
Final Thoughts for this Woolly Bear Pom-Pom Caterpillar Craft
My kids have always loved Woolly Bear caterpillars, and they’re always out and about during my favorite time of year…the fall.
What I like about using the fuzzy sticks is that you can curl your pom-pom caterpillar up into a ball, just like the real caterpillars do!
And you only need 5 supplies to make these Woolly Bears! Two of which you most likely have on hand!
It’s fun to talk about the science behind these fuzzy fellows, how they survive the winter, and why they are so active in the autumn season of the year.
And you can also make your best weather prediction for the winter using their brown and black bands!
So, let me know what you think down in the comments!
As always, thanks so much for reading!
So, ready to grab black and brown yarn, and a few fuzzy sticks to make this pom-pom caterpillar craft? And talk about some Woolly Bear science facts in the process!
Pin me on Pinterest! ⬇️