What a Woolly Worm Knows

June 11, 2009

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It's time again to shine the spotlight on a certain caterpillar. The larva of the Isabella tiger moth (Pyrrharctia isabella), this fuzzy fellow is called the banded woolly bear, or woolly worm.

He is often black with a rust-colored band in the middle, although he might be almost all black or all rust.

Folklore says that if the rusty band is wide, then it will be a mild winter. The more black there is, the more severe the winter. Read more about this weather lore.

For more woolly worm fun, check out the Woolly Worm Festival in Banner Elk, North Carolina. At this annual October event, woolly worms race up to the top of their 3-foot-long strings, accompanied by thousands of cheers. The bands of the winner predict the coming winter.

Have you seen a woolly worm in your area? What did it look like? Feel free to share your experience.

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Heidi Stonehill, our Senior Editor, joined the team in 2001. She enjoys the natural sciences, gardening, music, art, poetry, and animals—especially her fuzzy feline, Joey.

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Comments

3/4/14 I live in NW Indiana

By Suzanne BK

3/4/14 I live in NW Indiana where spring has not begun yet. We had a snow storm Sunday, and near zero temperatures overnight. I saw a "Wooly" today on my patio!!! A sign of Spring, I hope!!

I saw a woolly bear today

By Sue R

I saw a woolly bear today 1/26/14. The center rust/brown band was at least 1/2 the length of the caterpillar with only very narrow black end bands. I sure hope that's predicting an early spring.

I just saw a Wooly Bear today

By stephanie Smith

I just saw a Wooly Bear today on 1/14/2014 in Louisville, KY

JUST SAW A WOOLY BEAR TODAY

By RM

JUST SAW A WOOLY BEAR TODAY ON DECEMBER 4, 2013. THE RUST PART OF THE FUR IS ONE THIRD THE LENGTH OF THE CATEPILLAR.

I just took a photo of a

By RM

I just took a photo of a wooly bear in Morristown, NJ. Dec. 4, 2013. The rust band equals one third of the length of the catepillar.

..i just held one and put it

By Jenni M.

..i just held one and put it on a leafy bush..there's been a good amount of them around here..just discovered here what they were called.. i live in the hudson valley area in new york..most of them have been half and half with the rust and black..some more or less with one color or another..but i didn't know about the coloring meaning something..so i'll keep better track of what i find from now on..i find if you pick one up and it curls into a ball..blowing very very gently on it..makes it come out of the ball and start walking again..i always put them on a leafy bush..they like it and crawl inside the branches..

I live on the South Shore of

By Christine W

I live on the South Shore of Nova Scotia, and they seem to be out and about everywhere.

Got some nice photos yesterday, and the bands were wide, thus I expect a mild winter :) Yeah! Yay!

Will gladly share my photos, just not sure where :)

Wooly bear here in Central

By Rennie Poser

Wooly bear here in Central Minnesota has a small rusty colored band around its middle.

I live in western central OH

By Margaret E. Hartman

I live in western central OH and I've seen many woolly bears and everyone of them are totally black.

I saw one a couple of weeks

By Michael Dancer

I saw one a couple of weeks ago and it had a big brown band! I'm ready for another mild winter. I live in central Michigan.

Far north central Wisconsin,

By dlhnorth2@gmail.com

Far north central Wisconsin, the only wooly bear I saw was all black. They have been rare up here in the last 5 years. Because of drought?

I live in PA and the wooly

By 1937redhead

I live in PA and the wooly bears have a small black band in front and back the middle is brown and larger than the black ....MILD winter? I always have faith in them. I am 72 years old so I know these wooly creatures a long time.

I live in Western West

By Carla Mceldowney

I live in Western West Virginia and every wooly worm I've seen are completely black.

I'm from delmar on the

By Lora Parker

I'm from delmar on the eastern shore of maryland, and the most I have seen have been mostly rust with little black and white ones.

Here on Eastern Shore of

By hevyn

Here on Eastern Shore of Maryland we are loaded with them! For what it's worth, right now they are mostly rust colored. It's been quite warm, no frost yet.

I saw one a few weeks ago in

By Tamera Lott

I saw one a few weeks ago in North Alabama and it was solid black.

I saw one a few weeks ago in

By Tamera Lott

I saw one a few weeks ago in n.Alabama and it was all black.

I have seen a few Woolly

By fastdog

I have seen a few Woolly Bears in the last week or so here in the Shenandoah Valley. They all were just about black.

I did NOT see many wooly

By Aunt Sassy

I did NOT see many wooly worms this year....why? The one I did see showed me his orange band.....and he did not have a very black, thick coat...!

the only 1 ive seen so far

By demon673

the only 1 ive seen so far this year was solid white

The first woolly bear I've

By LITM

The first woolly bear I've seen so far in south east Kentucky had unequal black bands, the back was smaller.

I have not seen many woolly

By Dean Young

I have not seen many woolly bears this year and saw only 8-9 butterflies all summer.
Dean

I saw a wooly bear a few days

By Cindy Mohney

I saw a wooly bear a few days ago and it had two black stripes and one rust stripe that seemed to be divided almost equally in thirds.

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