Woolly Bear Weather Prediction
"No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn." ~ Hal Borland
The Isabella Moth Caterpillar
As winter is quickly approaching, we are seeing more Isabella tiger moth caterpillars. These insects are often referred to as the woolly bear, banded woolly bear, woolly worm and the black-ended bear.
According to folklore, the woolly bear caterpillar can predict the severity of the coming winter. The more black bands the critter has the harsher the winter conditions will be. So, if you love cold snowy winters, you want more black bands.
How Does the Woolly Bear Predict the Weather?
The average woolly bear caterpillar has 13 segments. They can be easily identified in the above picture. Each one of these segments symbolizes one week of winter. The brown segments represent a mild week, and the black segments represent a harsh week. If the head area has more, then the beginning of winter will be the harshest. If the rear area has more, the end of winter will be the worst.
The thickness of the caterpillar’s hair is also an indication of the upcoming winter conditions. If it is dense, the winter will be colder. If it is sparse, the winter will be mild.
Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar
A caterpillar often mistaken for the Woolly Bear is the giant leopard moth caterpillar. However, this caterpillar is completely covered with black hair and has red spiracles and inner segments. Every year, people get nervous when they see this caterpillar. They believe the winter is going to be horrible because the caterpillar is completely black with no brown.
The Vermillion Woolly Bear Festival
Woolly bear caterpillars are very popular in Ohio. So much so, the residents of Vermillion have held an annual “Wooly Bear Festival” since 1973. This year it is on October 2nd.
This Woolly Bear Festival usually lasts one day and includes a winter forecast, parade, and even woolly bear races.
Science or Folklore?
How accurate are the woolly bears at weather predictions? Not very accurate at all. Scientists have performed studies and have found out that the caterpillars’ bands are affected by other factors. These include the species, food source, natural conditions and age.
Just because there is no scientific evidence that the Woolly Bear caterpillar can predict the weather, does not mean they cannot. As many of us nature lovers know, animals and insects seem to know what is coming before we ever do.
If you want to believe in the folklore or not, is completely up to you. It does not hurt to check out the caterpillars and see what they might be telling us. Maybe they will be right. This year the caterpillars I have found have a lot of black. Let's hope folklore is wrong. Here is to wishing for a mild winter.
2022-2023 Woolly Bear Winter Prediction
The caterpillar pictured directly above have 13 segments, 8 are black and 5 are brown. There are 5 dark stripes on the front end of the caterpillar and 3 on the rear. Last year, we had a 4/6/3 ratio. So, this year the beginning will be worse, the middle not as mild, and the end about the same.
Many of the Woolly Bear caterpillars we have seen this fall have dense hair. This is an indication the winter will be cold.
So, does the coloring of the woolly bear caterpillar change due to their diet or the upcoming winter? I guess we will have to wait to find out.