Common folklore states that you can predict how hard an upcoming winter is going to be by examining the amount and placement of the brown bands on a woolly bear. For example, the Old Farmer’s Almanac says that if there is a large brown band near the head of the woolly bear, with black coloring in the rear, then the winter will start out mild, and will end harsh.
If the brown band is at the rear, then winter will start harsh, and will end mild. The size of the brown bands on the woolly bear caterpillar are said to dictate the degree of mildness to a winter. The more brown you see, the more mild the winter. If you examine a woolly bear and it is all black, then watch out!
Woolly Bears? What in the world are Woolly Bears?
Woolly bears are furry black and brown caterpillars that become active in the fall across the North America. They are common in Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, and can be found all of the way up into Canada. These caterpillars are sometime also known as woolly worms. Their scientific name is Pyrrharctia isabella.
The woolly bear emerges from its egg in late fall, covered with fur and looks forward to cold weather. They often can be seen in the fall scurrying across paths and roads in the fall. The woolly bear caterpillar creates a natural anti-freeze in its own body that will allow it to hibernate for the winter. They search out old logs or crevices in rocks to hide in to protect themselves from the harsh winter conditions. The following spring, they produce a cocoon and will transform itself into the Isabella Tiger Moth for the summer. The moth will mate and produce a fresh batch of eggs that are hatched in the fall to start the cycle again.
Is there any truth to Woolly Bear Weather Lore?
Scientists have studied woolly bears and found that the amount of brown and black coloring of their bands depends more on their age than the weather. They also believe that the coloring may be determined by past weather conditions, rather then the upcoming winter. Certain stresses, lack of growth, and lack of food or water may have more to do with the color of a woolly bear than anything. Scientists have noted that Woolly Bears will turn more brown as winter approaches.
Even though woolly bears may not be the best winter prognosticators, it is still fun to crouch down to take a look at them to see if you can come up with your own weather forecast based on the color of Woolly Worms.