October 11, 2012

The 2012-2013 Weather Prediction from the Woolly Worm & Accuweather




Two weeks ago when my friend Mary visited me she brought with her disastrous news: the 2012-2013 winter weather will be severe.

She’d seen a wooly worm. And it was all black.


This woolly bear predicts a mild mid-winter and quite unmild season ends

In our neck of the woods (Southwestern Pennsylvania) the woolly worm is an autumn insect that can tell us what to expect in the coming winter weather.  What we refer to as the woolly worm is more accurately called the Banded Woolly Bear, the larval stage of the moth Pyrrharctia isabella. It’s common name, woolly bear, refers to its long, thick, fur-like hairs called setae

  • seta is a biological term derived from the Latin      word for bristle- or hair-like structures on living organisms (setae      is plural).4

The woolly bear is a copper color with varying bands of black that supposedly tell a story. This insect is found in many cold regions, including the Arctic. The banded woolly bear larva emerges from an egg in the fall and overwinters in its caterpillar form. During the winter it literally freezes solid. First its heart stops beating, then its gut freezes, then its blood, followed by the rest of the body. It survives being frozen by producing a cryoprotectant in its tissues.

  • A cryoprotectant is a substance that is used to protect biological tissue from freezing damage (i.e. that due to ice formation). Arctic and Antarctic insects, fish and amphibians create cryoprotectants (antifreeze compounds and antifreeze proteins) in their bodies to minimize freezing damage during cold winter periods. Insects most often use sugars or polvols as cryoprotectants… in order to be biologically viable they must (1) easily penetrate cells, and (2) not be toxic to the cell.5

When spring arrives the woolly bear thaws out, emerges to pupate—the life stage when it evolves from a larva to a moth. During this time it is protected from predators by a hard protective coating. Once the completed moth emerges from its pupa it has only days to find a mate before it dies.

It’s no wonder that I’ve never spotted a Pyrrharctia isabella. I’ll have to be on the outlook for one this next spring.


Back to the woolly worm, (or woolly bear) and what it tells us about the upcoming winter.

The woolly bear communicates its information to us via the number and width of its black stripes. To see an all-black insect is to expect an extraordinarily hard, cold, snowy season.


Mary’s sighting was, therefore, a warning to be prepared.

However—a few days later I spotted a woolly bear. It had two very thin stripes on each end, indicating two very short harsh periods of winter at each end of the season. Ah, I felt better, but how did it tie in with Mary’s sighting?

This week I spotted another woolly bear. It posed while I shot it as it slowly crawled across my silver sneaker that was temporarily abandoned on my back porch. It had no black stripes—zero, nil. A mild winter all the way through the season.

It seems as if the woolly bears cannot get their act together, that they are confused or don’t want us to know what’s to come.


Then I saw a map of the predicted upcoming 2012-2013 winter season for Southwestern Pennsylvania. Accordingly, the Ligonier Valley is on the line separating above normal snowfall east of us and normal weather west of us—where the blue color meets the olive color.

It seems the woolly bears can make a choice which way to predict, or they are predicting the weather on different sides of the street.

Below is the Accuweather prediction for the winter 2-12-2013 season. Note that Southwestern Pennsylvania isn’t really Mid-Atlantic (too far west) nor is it Northern US (just on the southern border):

…if Accuweather is correct this winter should be a flip of last year’s. They’re predicting The CO, UT, and the Mid-Atlantic to have above average snowfall and the Northern US and PNW to have below average snow and above average temps.

Plus they expect winter to come earlier this year than last with a lot of snow in January and February rather than the abundance of spring storms we saw last year.


But then, what do Accuweather and the wooly bear really know????



Mother Nature’s Creatures Predict Winter Weather

Wooly Worms Predict the 2011 PA. Winter Weather:

Accu.Weather Makes Its 2011-2012 Winter Forecast:








Accuweather map6

Pyrrharctia isabella picture4


  1. Read and Validate

    Comment by Joan — October 15, 2012 @ 7:52 pm | Reply

  2. C, antifreeze huh? now that I never heard of, ty for your post.D

    Comment by raymond "dmitri" beljan — October 15, 2012 @ 9:00 pm | Reply

  3. Enjoyed your woolly bear blog very much. Thanks for all the information; will look for our woolly friends with added interest. I was told many years ago of their predictive nature by way of their coloring. From that point on, I began to see banded as well as all black woollies. Did I see the all black varieties before a harsh winter? The answer is yes. If I see one now, I do honestly shudder because those were some pretty cold and snowy winters with bitter days full of shoveling and lugging firewood to keep the house warm. I guess you can say I am a believer in the signs that nature provides us.
    In regard to that, I recently was told of another sign to look for that also predicts a hard winter. From an old hunter and farmer, it was relayed to me that the color of deer in the fall indicated how hard the winter will be. Look for the darkness of their coat; the darker the coat, the worse the weather. I hesitate to tell you what I’ve seen this year, but if it holds true, get out all your warmest sweaters, clean off your shovels and put in your firewood. We’ll see what happens.

    Comment by mary a marcum — October 17, 2012 @ 4:53 pm | Reply

    • Thank you for posting additional input to my writing. It’s interesting about the deer—I’ll have to watch and see if I can spot some. I guess the only way we will know which weather prediction is accurate is to wait and see…

      Comment by carolyncholland — October 18, 2012 @ 9:11 am | Reply

  4. […] The 2012-2013 Weather Prediction from the Woolly Worm & Accuweather […]

    Pingback by Wooly Worm Predictions for Winter 2015-2016 | Carolyn's Online Magazine — October 8, 2015 @ 11:52 pm | Reply

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