Woolly Bears as Winter Predictors?

A telltale sign of autumn is the appearance of woolly bear caterpillars moving across backyards, sidewalks and roads. These fat, furry caterpillars are looking for safe places to spend the winter. They spend the cold months dormant under decaying logs and fallen leaves, and in this state can survive temperatures well below freezing. Come spring, they’ll create cocoons and pupate, eventually emerging as Isabella tiger moths (Pyrrharctia isabella).

These cute black and reddish-brown caterpillars are famed for being able to predict the oncoming winter. According to folklore, the wider the caterpillar’s brown band, the less severe winter will be. A smaller brown band means you’re in store for a very harsh winter. But is it true? According to the Farmer’s Almanac, there just might be some validity to the story.

You can help woolly bears by creating a habitat for them right in your own yard or garden. You can also report your woolly bear sightings on NWF’s Wildlife Watch website.

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Published: October 21, 2009