How to ‘read’ the woolly bear caterpillar: Winter folklore

How to ‘read’ the woolly bear caterpillar: Winter folklore
How to ‘read’ the woolly bear caterpillar: Winter folklore

(WKBN) – It is that time of the year when the fuzzy and slow-moving woolly bear caterpillars, also called “wooly worms,” are crawling across the landscape.

Each fall, some use the woolly bear caterpillars to try to make predictions about the upcoming winter. This is weather folklore as there is no scientific reason to prove the different patterns of brown and black on the caterpillar indicate what kind of winter you can expect.

The weather folklore of woolly bear caterpillars has been around since colonial times, according to the National Weather Service.

According to a story from the New York Herald Tribune, the idea grew after Dr. Howard Curran did a small study in 1948. He used the area around Bear Mountain, New York and counted the brown bands on 15 different caterpillars, and then made a prediction for winter. The story was distributed, and since then, it has been a fun indicator of winter weather forecasting through folklore.

Woolly worm
Adobe Stock

How to “read” the woolly bear caterpillar

According to the folklore, the winter will be colder and snowier the longer the black bands are on each caterpillar. If there is a long band of brown through the middle of the caterpillar, the winter will be milder.

The position of the dark band is supposed to tell you which part of the winter will be the coldest. If the head of the caterpillar is dark, it would indicate the beginning of winter will be cold and severe. If the tail is dark, it would indicate the end of winter will be severe.

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The woolly bear caterpillar has 13 segments to its body. It has been said that this correlates to the 13 weeks of winter.

Again, this is weather folklore and used for fun each year. It is not an actual forecast.

Woolly worm
Adobe Stock

According to the National Weather Service, there are two different versions of the woolly bear forecaster. One states that the coat of the caterpillar will indicate how harsh the winter will be. A woolly coat will be a cold winter.

The other version has to do with the direction of travel. If the wooly bear is traveling south, it is trying to escape a cold winter. If the wooly bear is traveling north, it indicates the winter will be mild.

Does the woolly bear become a moth?

The woolly bear caterpillar becomes an Isabella Tiger Moth. The caterpillar gets moving again as spring warms up and forms its cocoon.

It takes about two weeks, and the moth emerges. These moths are active through the night during the summer.

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