The Vinterworm is the larva or caterpillar of the Vintermoth (Scandinavian: Winter moth). The vinterworm was discovered by Swedish entomologist Fredrik Dahlhof in 1912 on an expedition to Greenland. The Vintermoth came to Dahlhof’s attention while gathering samples in the Eastern Region of Greenland, North of Isortoq. Dahlhof found a cocoon of the vinterworm and discovered that it had some very unique characteristics. No matter how hard he tried, he could not dissect the cocoon at his camp. It proved to be nearly unbreakable. Dahlhof gathered as many samples as he could and continued on his expedition.
After returning to Sweden, Dahlhof continued studying the mysterious cocoons. After viewing them under a microscope, he found that the material’s strength was derived not from the silk itself, but from the tightly interwoven pattern of the silk produced by the vinterworm. Dahlhof was able to mimic the interwoven pattern in a vest using Kevlar and thus created the first bullet proof vest.
Lifecycle of the Vinterworm
The vintermoth lays its eggs in September, before the temperature reaches below freezing. The vintermoth then dies once temperatures begin to freeze and the eggs remain frozen until May of the next year. The eggs hatch and the insect spends the next two months as a caterpillar, the vinterworm, until it builds a cocoon around July when the temperature in Greenland peaks around fifty degrees Fahrenheit. The cocoon hatches in August and the Vintermoth finishes its lifecycle by laying its eggs in September.
The vinterworm’s primary food is the different types of short grass that grow throughout the Eastern region of Greenland.
While the vinterworm’s strong cocoon wasn’t discovered by Fredrik Dahlhof until 1912, natives to Greenland knew about these characteristics long before. Some villages claim to have records of natives wearing clothes covered in vinterworm cocoons to help protect themselves in battle. Some villages even claim these cocoons helped fend off Viking raiders throughout the middle ages.