I found this creature in our garden, along with many of its relatives. In many parts of the country, that would be a bad thing, but in this part of the country, it is amazingly cool. Why?
This is a cutworm, the larva of the Miller Moth. They are insect pests that munch on lawns, gardens, etc. The first cool thing about them is that where most caterpillars spend the winter as a pupa, Miller Moth caterpillars spend the winter as caterpillars, buried in the ground. Whenever there is a warm day, they emerge to nibble on any plants that are available. Now that spring is near, they are almost ready to pupate. When the moths emerge, they will all migrate north, to high elevations. There, they will spend the hot part of the summer on cool mountains, hiding under rocks during the day. In Yellowstone National Park, Miller Moths are a major food for Grizzly Bears! When the moths arrive, the bears head for the hills, turning rocks to gobble the moths. In spite of their small size, there are so many Miller Moths that the bears get plenty to eat. That means that I am raising Grizzly Bear food in our garden! Cool!