11 FACTS ABOUT THE WOOLLY WORM a. k. a. WOOLLY BEAR
ITS PREDICTION FOR WINTER WEATHER 2014-2015
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STAY TUNED TO THIS POST for any future updates on the woolly worm’s prediction for winter 2014-2015. The data isn’t out yet. My daughter Sandy reports the first sighting, with black on both ends. If you spot a woolly worm/woolly bear let me know, in the comment box, the color of its stripes and therefore its prediction.
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This is the time of year that people actively seek to discover what the coming winter will be like. One resource they search online is the wooly worm a.k.a. woolly bear. In the tradition of past years, I’m posting a feature on the creature, this year in the form of a quiz. Previous posts discuss other aspects of the woolly worm:
Cry foul on the frigid cold—too cold to swim.
- What’s the difference between the woolly worm and the woolly bear?
- The woolly worm is well-known because…
- The woolly worm is actually not a worm, or a bear. What is it?
- How fast do woolly worms crawl?
- How many stripes does a woolly worm have?
- Original studies of the woolly worm were done in 1948 by whom?
- How many different species of tiger moths are there?
- What two towns celebrate the woolly worm at annual October festivals?
- What determines the woolly worm’s coloring?
- What special traits do Arctic woolly worms have?
What three ways does the woolly worm pass its winter weather prediction on to us humans?
Click on MORE to learn the answers.
- Nothing. The winter weather predictor is known as a woolly worm in the south and woolly bear in the Midwest and New England. Since I’m a New Englander living on the eastern edge of the Midwest I will refer to it as the woolly worm.
- Folklore has designated the woolly worm a winter weather forecaster.** Legend has it that Native Americans taught the pioneers how to “read” a woolly worm to predict how bad the coming winter would be.***
- A caterpillar.* The larva of a species of tiger moth (Pyrrharctia isabella), the woolly bear caterpillar is also known as a woolly worm. They average about 1 1⁄2 inches long, and are bristly, with black stripes at each end and a reddish brown stripe in the middle. They curl into a ball when touched*****
- At a neck-snapping .05 miles an hour, or about a mile a day.***
- 13—one for each week of winter.
- In the autumn of 1948, Dr. C. H. Curran, curator of insects at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, went 40 miles north of the city to Bear Mountain State Park to look at woolly bear caterpillars. His experiment continued over the next eight years, during which he attempted to prove scientifically a weather rule of thumb that was as old as the hills around Bear Mountain. The resulting publicity made the woolly bear the most recognizable caterpillar in North America. The caterpillar Curran studied, the true woolly bear, was the larval form of Pyrrharctia isabella, the Isabella tiger moth, a medium-size moth with yellowish-orange and cream-colored wings spotted with black.****
- Approximately 260 species of tiger moths (the adult of the woolly bear caterpillar)***
- Vermilion, Ohio and in Banner Elk, North Carolina. Bannner Elk “Woolly Worm Festival” is highlighted by a caterpillar race. Retired mayor Charles Von Canon inspects the champion woolly bear and announces his winter forecast.****
- How long it’s fed: the better the growing season the bigger it will grow. Its age: this results in a narrower red orange band in its middle. The caterpillars shed their skins or molt six times before reaching adult size. With each successive molt their colors change, becoming less black and more reddish. And its species.***
- The Arctic wooly worms can spend at least 14 years in the process of becoming a tiger moth and can survive to temps as low as -90 deg F***
BONUS QUESTION ANSWER
- First, read the patches of colored fur or hair. Woolly worms have black bands and reddish-brown bands. According to legend, the thinner the brown bands, the harsher the winter. Or if there is more black, then the winter will be rougher; more brown, then winter will be milder. Take this a few steps further and look at each individual stripe on the worm-one for each week of winter. So, if the worm has 4 black stripes at the front followed by 4 brown stripes, we will have a cold, rough December, then a milder January-in theory.
- Second, the thickness of the hair on the worm is a predictor. If the hair is thicker, then the winter will be worse.
- And finally, check out the direction it is traveling! If the woolly worm is headed north, then the winter will be milder. If the worm is going south, then prepare for a longer, cold winter. Woolly worm enthusiasts claim there has been an 85% success rate over the last few decades.***
DISCLAIMER: I haven’t checked the above facts for accuracy—