Usually in August or September I see many Woolly Bears, or Woolly Worms as they are know in some places, crossing the rural roads that I drive quite frequently. This year, so far, I haven’t seen a single one. I’m not quite sure, but they may have gone the way of our peach and apple crop this year. The hard freeze that we had in the late spring probably is the reason for the lack of Woolly Bears this season.

Just how is someone going to predict this winter weather without Woolly Bears? Many people believe that this caterpillar can predict the severity of the coming winter. In fact, several studies have been done and found that the Woolly Bear was right about 80% of the time. That is probably about 80% better that our local TV weathercasters, unless they use the Woolly Bears for their predictions.

Here is what we know about this little guy and how you can tell what the upcoming winter will bring. Just think how impressed your neighbors will be with you in several years. They will be coming to you for all their weather forecasts, unless you just happen to pick the 20% of the times that they are wrong.

The Woolly Bear caterpillar is the larval stage of the Isabella Tiger Moth. If you see one and pick it up, it will play dead. When it is scared, it rolls up into a little ball. Kind of like us when we were little kids. The reason we see so many during August and September, (under normal condition, not like this year) is that they are seeking out a place to hibernate for the winter. This would be under a rock, under the bark of a tree or even under logs.

In the spring they emerge, look for food, form a cocoon, soon to become Tiger Moths. The moths then lay eggs and start the process all over again. Usually there are 2-3 batches of little caterpillars running around looking for something to eat each season. The last generations are the ones who over-winter and on whom the predictions are based. So, don’t go grabbing a Woolly Bear in the middle of summer and make your prediction for the winter on it. Your neighbors wouldn’t be very impressed with you at all.

How do you make these predictions? Simply by picking one up and looking at the bands on it. I know that this will turn some people off, so for those of you who get the “woollies” you can just watch them as crawl along their way. What you are looking for is the reddish-brown band in the middle. Both ends will be black. If this band in the middle is wide, it will be a mild winter; if it is narrow it will be a harsh winter. Another way to look at it is the longer the black bands, the more severe the winter will be. Some people actually prefer one way over the other. To me it is six of one and half a dozen of the other.

As you get more into this, you will discover that there are actually thirteen body segments. Some people who study folklore believe that these segments correspond to the thirteen weeks of winter and each band could conceivably predict each week with the position of the bands indicating which part of the winter will be colder.

Most scientists don’t believe that the Woolly Bear caterpillar can predict the upcoming winters. They can find all sorts of scientific reasons why the bands are wider at times than at others. I bet that they don’t believe in Santa Claus either.

I want to state right here and now that I believe in them, especially when I see a bunch headed south. When I see that, I know that it will be a long hard winter.

Comments are closed.