Woolly Bear Caterpillars and Weather Prediction

Using Woolly Worms for a Winter Forecast

woolly-bear-caterpillar-winter

Based on the measurements of the distinctive woolly bear caterpillar, you can figure out your weather forecast!

University of Missouri

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The woolly bear caterpillar—also called woolly worm and fuzzy worm—has the reputation of being able to forecast the coming winter weather. Whether fact or folklore, learn more about this legendary caterpillar and how to “read” the worm.

This is the legend: The Woolly Bear caterpillar has 13 distinct segments of either rusty brown or black. The wider the rusty brown sections (or the more brown segments there are), the milder the coming winter will be. The more black there is, the more severe the winter. 

How the Woolly Bear Became “Famous”

  • In the fall of 1948, Dr. C. H. Curran, curator of insects at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, took his wife 40 miles north of the city to Bear Mountain State Park to look at woolly bear caterpillars.
  • Dr. Curran collected as many caterpillars as he could in a day, determined the average number of reddish-brown segments, and forecast the coming winter weather through a reporter friend at The New York Herald Tribune.
  • Dr. Curran’s experiment, which he continued over the next eight years, 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.

What is the Woolly Bear?

The caterpillar Curran studied, the true woolly bear, is the larval form of Pyrrharctia isabella, the Isabella tiger moth. See another picture of a woolly bear!

  • This medium-size moth, with yellowish-orange and cream-colored wings spotted with black, is common from northern Mexico throughout the United States and across the southern third of Canada.
  • As moths go, the Isabella isn’t much to look at compared with other species, but its immature larva, called the black-ended bear or the woolly bear (and, throughout the South, woolly worm) is one of the few caterpillars most people can identify.
  • Woolly bears do not actually feel much like wool—they are covered with short, stiff bristles of hair.
  • In field guides, they’re found among the “bristled” species, which include the all-yellow salt marsh caterpillar and several species in the tiger moth family. Not all are ‘woolly bears!’
  • Woolly bears, like other caterpillars, hatch during warm weather from eggs laid by a female moth.
  • Mature woolly bears search for overwintering sites under bark or inside cavities of rocks or logs. (That’s why you see so many of them crossing roads and sidewalks in the fall.)
  • When spring arrives, woolly bears spin fuzzy cocoons and transform inside them into full-grown moths.
  • Typically, the bands at the ends of the caterpillar are black, and the one in the middle is brown or orange, giving the woolly bear its distinctive striped appearance.

Do Woolly Bear Caterpillars Forecast Winter Weather?

Between 1948 and 1956, Dr. Curran’s average brown-segment counts ranged from 5.3 to 5.6 out of the 13-segment total, meaning that the brown band took up more than a good third of the woolly bear’s body. The corresponding winters were milder than average, and Dr. Curran concluded that the folklore has some merit and might be true.

But Curran was under no scientific illusion: He knew that his data samples were small. Although the experiments legitimized folklore to some, they were simply an excuse for having fun. Curran, his wife, and their group of friends escaped the city to see the foliage each fall, calling themselves The Original Society of the Friends of the Woolly Bear.

Thirty years after the last meeting of Curran’s society, the woolly bear brown-segment counts and winter forecasts were resurrected by the nature museum at Bear Mountain State Park. The annual counts have continued, more or less tongue in cheek, since then.

For the past 10 years, Banner Elk, North Carolina, has held an annual “Woolly Worm Festival” each October, highlighted by a caterpillar race. Retired mayor Charles Von Canon inspects the champion woolly bear and announces his winter forecast. If the rusty band is wide, then it will be a mild winter. The more black there is, the more severe the winter. 

Most scientists discount the folklore of woolly bear predictions as just that, folklore. Says Ferguson from his office in Washington, “I’ve never taken the notion very seriously. You’d have to look at an awful lot of caterpillars in one place over a great many years in order to say there’s something to it.”

Mike Peters, an entomologist at the University of Massachusetts, doesn’t disagree, but he says there could, in fact, be a link between winter severity and the brown band of a woolly bear caterpillar. “There’s evidence,” he says, “that the number of brown hairs has to do with the age of the caterpillar—in other words, how late it got going in the spring. The [band] does say something about a heavy winter or an early spring. The only thing is … it’s telling you about the previous year.”

Every year, the wooly worms do indeed look different—and it depends on their region. So, if you come across a local woolly worm, observe the colors of the bands and what they foretell about your winter weather.

Then, again, you can always check the winter weather predictions in The Old Farmer’s Almanac!

Source: 

The 1999 Old Farmer's Almanac

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Forgot to add in last post

Forgot to add in last post that this past 2 weeks of September 2013 have seen 4 woolly bears and they have all been solid Black and only have seen that in winter 1992-1993 and around the years of 72-74 , just cannot remember exact year 72, 73 or 74 but both of them winters were EXTREMELY COLD AND SNOWY !

I am 49 yrs old and born and

I am 49 yrs old and born and bred in the South/North Carolina Mountains and since a kid my Grandparents , older neighbors , etc., always said to look at the Woolly Bear to see how much black or brown covered it's body ... the more Black the more harsher/colder/snowier winter and more Brown a Mild-Winter . predicting the winter that way , by the color of the Woolly Worm was ALWAYS at least 95% right as i have observed as far back as i can remember . There were other things i learned as a kid ... thickness of fur on squirrels , the thicker , the harder/colder winter ... the wood spiders nest , the higher built off the ground , the snowier and deep snows . that is just a few examples . some will call them wise tales but nature does not lie and if you watch it .. it will give you a dang good idea of the weather coming . all i can say is people can believe it or not . i SURE DO because i have saw the results of the animals and incects be more accurate than the weather forecasters
.

Steve, Thanks for other

Steve, Thanks for other interesting nature lore, facts. I recently heard of the woolly worm from a woman from Kentucky.They have began showing up here but all I have seen is a light cinnamon color with one dark brown-black stripe running front to back, no horizontal markings though. Last year was a cold, wet- a harsh winter for Georgia. The weather was reported as turning around but when I saw the squirrels restocking acorns which I had not seen before, to me it was informing us to expect a longer than normal winter and the weather to remain harsh. Who was right? The squirrels. Our ancestors lived, farmed, etc. by nature's clues and they proved valid. Who am I going to believe? Nature!!! I have been watching the "wild cats", domestic cats living outside. They provide much accurate insight into our weather-rain, heat, cold(& they have thicker coats, fur, than in past), etc. Thanks again for your comments : )

I live in Gainesville,Ga and

I live in Gainesville,Ga and today my husband found an all black woolly. First time ever to see this beautiful little guy.maybe snow for Christmas.

Found one the other day, all

Found one the other day, all black. Never seen an all black one before.

Meant to say in Vermont.

Meant to say in Vermont. Found an all black one in Vermont for the first time.

In connecticutI saw several

In connecticutI saw several today and they all black with orange large stripe in the middle. Hopefully it will be a mild winter..

I'm in Northern CT and I have

I'm in Northern CT and I have been seeing more than I ever have in previous years. All with very little black, mostly brown:) We sure like milder winters here in New England!

I too live in Northern CT and

I too live in Northern CT and have seen about a half dozen woolly bears this week, all of them mostly brown with just a little black on each end. Sure hope we have a mild winter for a change--and no more October blizzards! I've never seen an all-black woolly bear; can people be confusing them with some other species?

My kids found an all black

My kids found an all black one also. So, do you think we should cut and run this winter? Lol

I just saw 2 ALL BLACK in VT.

I just saw 2 ALL BLACK in VT. First time too! uh oh...

Just found my first woolly

Just found my first woolly worm. He is solid black. I'm in Piedmont North Carolina.

We were out geocaching in the

We were out geocaching in the Boise, ID area and saw these little guys all over the place & and they were quickly scooting in every direction! Ours were mostly black on both ends & medium orange section in the middle. We'll see how it goes!

28Sep2013 - several sightings

28Sep2013 - several sightings of all amber woolies...with only a spot of a dark band on one end. Western New York. Our winters have been uncharacteristically mild for the last several years and if I read the report right...looks like it may be another easy winter.

I have 100rds in on my

I have 100rds in on my property and they are all mostly orange (with black at each end).Only 2 acers.

We live in Indiana and we

We live in Indiana and we have only seen all white woollies!!!!

I live in Indiana too, in the

I live in Indiana too, in the South-central part and I found an all-black woolly bear today!

Saw my first ALL white wooly

Saw my first ALL white wooly in Maryland today! Does that mean SNOW??

I've seen pictures of people

I've seen pictures of people breaking out in hive like bumps after touching the white ones...

I live in Las Vegas Nv and as

I live in Las Vegas Nv and as of the last few days have seen so many caterpillars around my house and the neighborhood. is that strange for Las Vegas, because when I say a lot I mean you can't drive with out running over the poor little guys :(

I saw the wooly bear

I saw the wooly bear yesterday it measured 2 cm in Owls Head, Ny
patrick

Saw one 9/22/13 in Amelia,

Saw one 9/22/13 in Amelia, east of Cincinnati, Ohio.. All Black.. bad winter coming??

I am near you clwilson and I

I am near you clwilson and I saw one last night, mainly brown, only had black tips. So keep our fingers crossed for a mild winter :)

I live in NE PA. I was

I live in NE PA. I was surprised this year to see my first wooly bear in July. I've never seen them this early. In the past few months I've seen 5 or 6 all black. Recently I've seen a few black on each end and brown in the middle and one all brown. Since I was very young my family believed that the more black, the worse the winter weather. A few years back I saw my first all black in the Phila. area and they got more snow than we did in the Poconos. One storm dropped 15" of snow that year. But our local weatherman says don't pay attention to the colors of wooly bears to predict weather.

Saw a wooly yesterday here in

Saw a wooly yesterday here in Putnam County, New York. It was all brown. First time I ever saw one with no black stripes on it!c

Here in Burlington Ky, i saw

Here in Burlington Ky, i saw my first banded wooly worm----wide black bands on head and tail and orange in the middle. I usually "discard" using any other caterpillar as a predictor---just the orange and black ones, per the wooly worm festival in eastern ky.

I live in vermilion Ohio

I live in vermilion Ohio right on lake Erie and today I just saw a all orangy-brown wooly bear

Saw my first wooly worm of

Saw my first wooly worm of the season. Same as yours,black on both ends and orange in the middle. I'm in Louisville.

I live in central Delaware

I live in central Delaware and 95 % of the wooly bears I've seen are all black. Yesterday I saw at least 50 crossing roadways and they all looked black. Cold winter.... I say so. Mother nature doesn't lie.

I live in Clearfield Pa and.

I live in Clearfield Pa and. today I saw an all black caterpillar on the road while riding motorcycles .

I am in Ma been seeing them

I am in Ma been seeing them brown on the ends and orange in the middle.

Last year (2012) we saw only

Last year (2012) we saw only a couple total for the whole fall here in Midwest Ohio; we had an extremely mild winter. This year, however, there is no shortage of our furry friends and in many colors. Makes me wonder whats in store for the upcoming winter!! Brrrrr

Found what seemed to be a

Found what seemed to be a white woolly bear in Lancaster, PA today. Never saw one that wasn't orange and/or black before. Cool to see others are as confused as I am as to what that might mean?

A few weeks ago my friend

A few weeks ago my friend posted a pic of a pure white one on her desk. I dont know what it means either

my husband and i were out

my husband and i were out moving the picnic table to mow the lawn and all of a sudden we saw wollybears every where not just by the picnic table but all out back we picked up 52 of them and they had small black tips and all brown in the middle neva saw so many ever!!!!
saved em all i hope!!!!!!!

As we understand it, there

As we understand it, there are many white caterpillars in the tiger moth family (many of which are called woolly worms or woolly bears). For example, a yellow woolly worm (Spilosoma virginica), also called the Virginia tiger moth, can appear in a white caterpillar phase. For photos of the various colors that this caterpillar can be, see:
http://bugguide.net/node/view/498

Although folklore focuses on the banded woolly bear, which does not have a white phase, there are weather sayings related to pale or white woolly bears as well. Some say that pale woolly bears mean that a mild winter is expected, but white woolly bears mean that lots of snow is coming.

I just saw a wooly bear on my

I just saw a wooly bear on my front porch and it mostly reddish brown with a black head does it mean a hard winter?

I just saw a snow white one

I just saw a snow white one today. My first all white one and I'm 52!

Found the first wooly bear of

Found the first wooly bear of the year here in Winston Salem, NC. It was small. It was black on the ends, brown in the middle.

I am curious about the extent

I am curious about the extent of the caterpillar determining the weather....Have been seeing a lot of white ones here in Brown County, Ohio, which is a first for me...Does anyone have any info about the white ones????

I just read where the all

I just read where the all white wooly worms means lots of snow. I live in Madison County, Indiana and I have seen three of them here so far, as of 9/24/13. I hope they are wrong. Lol

We camp near Neville Ohio.

We camp near Neville Ohio. The past 2 weekends this one included I've seen so many jet black woolys it's crazy! We have been very lucky the part few years with mild winters. We are due for a good snowy winter. I say bring it on. Count our blessings as they come. I'd love a white Christmas this year!!

I live in Daleville, VA and

I live in Daleville, VA and this week every wooly caterpillar I have seen has been completely black.

West Virginia. First time I

West Virginia. First time I have ever seen an all white woolly worm. What is that supposed to mean?

I read where it means lots of

I read where it means lots of snow a could be a blizzard too

Northern Michigan say three

Northern Michigan say three today all (orange) brown, no black.

Found two pale orange (no

Found two pale orange (no brown or black) woolies in Carroll Co, MD, yesterday.

Carroll Co MD here too. Found

Carroll Co MD here too. Found a bunch on my sunflowers yesterday..baby ones and big ones all over :)

Im in Carroll County MD also.

Im in Carroll County MD also. I've been seeing a ton of all black woolies and only a few with orange stipes

I have been seeing a lot of

I have been seeing a lot of them for about 3 weeks now.(its an invasion!) I am in Southern Illinois. They are in all colors and sizes. White, tan, orange, brown, and black. Mostly solid colors, but there sure have been alot of them! My son has been having fun finding them every day after school and it has not been hard for him. One step off the bus yesterday and he found two immediately!

NH sighting: Black wooley

NH sighting: Black wooley bear with a sprinkling of brown around the middle.

We have been inundated with

We have been inundated with "fuzzy bugs" all summer. I live on two acres outside of Flagstaff AZ. There are wooly bears, all one color - black, everywhere. They are enjoying my green bean and tomato plants as well as all the wild flowers.

We have seen over 20 today

We have seen over 20 today over less than 50 miles between southside Va and Richmond. They all appeared mostly black.

Saw my first today

Saw my first today 09.05.2013. Large all black. Mooresville NC

Sept. 6th 2013 Just saw a all

Sept. 6th 2013 Just saw a all black wolly bear caterpillar on a tree in the woods. Massachusetts

I saw my first today

I saw my first today 09.05.2013. Large all black

I have only seen two so far

I have only seen two so far this season and both were completely black. I live in Wright County in Minnesota just west of Minneapolis.

I have seen MANY wooly worms

I have seen MANY wooly worms crossing the road in the past week or two and every one of them have been the solid golden brown color (as in the middle band), with NO black on them at all. I guess it will be a mild winter.

I live near Fort

I live near Fort Boonesborough, KY.

I have seen three woolly bear

I have seen three woolly bear Caterpillars as of (9/04/13) and they were all black. Live in PA near Valley Forge.

I saw my first woolly today

I saw my first woolly today (9/3/13) it was completely black with a sliver of brown. We live in Delaware.

I saw an all black Woolly

I saw an all black Woolly yesterday(9/3/13). I have also seen some with a black head with an all brown body. We live in Maine.

I just saw one this morning

I just saw one this morning with two wide bands of black and a more narrow band of brown. I live in northern Delaware!

Just found my first wooly

Just found my first wooly this year, crawling across my dining room floor, all orange, kind of a burnt orange. We live in western NY

I have seen 1/2 dozen

I have seen 1/2 dozen woolies. All but one were completely black. I live in the piedmont of Virginia. That combined with the huge amounts of rain we had this summer and the cool August days (70s and 80s) have me anticipating a humdinger of a winter.

Around Aug.21st saw one

Around Aug.21st saw one woolly bear (Long Island) and it was almost all black.

One of my friends saw a white

One of my friends saw a white wooly worm what is the prediction for a white wooly worm?

I saw a white wooly worm

I saw a white wooly worm yesterday also. (I live in Southern Illinois).

White Wooly worm

A white wooly worm means (chuckle) it fell into a jug of
bleach.

Saw several so far, live in

Saw several so far, live in Chatham Virginia and so far all of the ones I've seen were all orange no black

So are wooly bears the only

So are wooly bears the only caterpillars that predict winter weather? What about the bright yellow caterpillar with black tentacles?

Could you be describing the

Could you be describing the larva of the banded tussock moth or a similar species? Although the Isabella tiger moth (adult of the woolly bear caterpillar) is in the same family, we aren't aware of winter weather lore associated with another species of caterpillar. However, it is certainly possible that certain regions have developed their own lore based on local insects.

I spotted 2 wollies on my

I spotted 2 wollies on my lawn today (August 27, 2013). One of them has a long orange stripe - i.e. most of the body. The other has mostly black. So I guess the winter is going to be 50/50??

I have yet to see a woolly

I have yet to see a woolly bear caterpillar and I live in northcentral Pennsylvania. What does it mean for the upcoming winter if there are none around?

Saw several last year we also

Saw several last year we also had a very mild winter here on the Cumberland plateau

Has anyone ever see one that

Has anyone ever see one that was all orange ?

Yes I saw an all orange one

Yes I saw an all orange one today!! First time to see one in my yard.

I did too today (Aug 27,

I did too today (Aug 27, 2013) on a bike ride along the coast in SW BC, Canada. Seeing such a beast for the first time and another with only the thinnest black band at head is what brought me here.

I just saw a burnt orange one

I just saw a burnt orange one and I have never seen one that color before. all black and black and orange but till today never a all orange what does that mean.

I live in Prince Edward

I live in Prince Edward Island Canada, and the woolly bears I have seen this year are all orange. Guess that means a mild winter this year or last year!

The orange/brown ones with no

The orange/brown ones with no black are the only ones I've seen in Cincinnati, Ohio and West Harrison, Indiana

In Mass...lived in this small

In Mass...lived in this small town 13 years and never saw a wooly bear saw 3 this month predominantly orange. .we do need a break this year...fingers crossed!

Yes, my daughter found one

Yes, my daughter found one yesterday that was all orange/cinnamon colored. We are in North Eastern Kansas, just south of Kansas City.

I have a pet woolly bear and

I have a pet woolly bear and he is almost
completely brown.I guess he thinks we're
in for a pretty mild winter.

Hello,I just love wooly

Hello,I just love wooly worms,they could be pets.I live in Cincinnati, Ohio I saw a bright yellow one today 8/4/2013 in my yard, it had a black head and a black butt,and about six long black spikes on it's back.I have never seen one this color.I see brown and black ones.What kind of wooly was he? Why was he here?

today on aug5,2013 I spotted

today on aug5,2013 I spotted a solid black three inch wooly caterpillar crawling across my patio, Conroe ,tx

Saw one yesterday with a very

Saw one yesterday with a very narrow brown band and he was headed South, just saying

just finnished shovelling 14

just finnished shovelling 14 or so inches of snow from nemo on my dwy and found 3 orange and black catterpilliers on the driveway its the middle of feb. whats up with that?

i always heard it was based

i always heard it was based on the first one a person found not all of them seen by a person maybe they are predicting the end of the world (lol) come on bring on the snow for N.E. ohio i want 6 feet of it

today December 2 2012. i

today December 2 2012. i found a wooly bear in the road walking, very strange for this time of year. has no brown at all. yes its all black.hope that the whole wooly stripe is a myth, cuz if not it dont look good. live in near saratoga ny.

I live in southcentral PA and

I live in southcentral PA and the wooly bear I saw yesterday was ALL black! Got our first light snow today.

While raking I came across a

While raking I came across a woolly bear.
I find them very interesting. 11/16/12
I loved them as a child ,still do.
Michigan

Near Myrtle Beach SC and for

Near Myrtle Beach SC and for the first time ever I have lots of woolly bears in the yard..Lot of black...Yes, I hoping for snow this year!!!

You are in for a cold

You are in for a cold winter.

The wooley worms are strange this year all over.
I have been predicting the weather for years by them
and have found them right on!!!!!
They are red here.. that means a average cold winter.
more medium. But it is odd the dark ones are showing
up in the warmer states. odd. I do think the animals
and nature are trying to tell us something. Man is not in
control.. God is. We need to think this everytime we
hear bad news... or think that some bad thing has control.
Only God has control.

Well, you know if that woolly

Well, you know if that woolly bear is wearing a down parka that it's going to be a tough winter!!

I just found a large black

I just found a large black wooly caterpillar. He only has very thin rust colored bands that segment him. I'm from so. jersey. Does this mean cold snowy winter?

I for one have always found

I for one have always found the woolies to be quite accurate.Unfortunatly for us in my area of pennsylvania they are all jet black this year.They had half orange last year and our 2011 winter was fairly mild.

Some people commented that

Some people commented that they saw a "wooly bear" that was all orange. That is a different kind of caterpillar, most- likely a yellow bear- not really related to the wooly bear.(and they can be other colors) Additionally, there are all black bristle like caterpillars in these same areas that are also not the wooly bear (Giant Leopard Moth larva. So some of you are just plainly seeing other caterpillars and not wooly bears. I am not discounting the weather predicting- just trying to inform/help those people who noticed there were some without bands- these are not wooly bears.

Live SW Missouri and haven't

Live SW Missouri and haven't spotted a single one yet. Been looking. Kicking leaves around. Boys and Hubby been in the woods getting firewood. None of us has seen one yet? What does it mean when you can't even find them? Is the winter going to be so bad they're afraid to come out?!

Maybe it means that winter

Maybe it means that winter will arrive early - and they were smart enough to have already found their spot to stay out of the harsh weather.

I was an ALL brown one on

I was an ALL brown one on 9/4/13 weird never seen one before?? Live in Western PA

where I live in Wisconsin my

where I live in Wisconsin my family and I have seen the wooly bear caterpillar with lots of brown with black tips

BUT! The burning question of

BUT! The burning question of the century is: How does the Wolly Bear ALWAYS cross the road at a 90 degree angle - absolutely perpendicular. Unless upset by a passing car. And then he gets right back on track. How does he know? He can't see the other side 'cause he's too short.

LOL - come to think of it,

LOL - come to think of it, you're absolutely right. I've never seen one try to cross pavement at an angle...maybe we don't give them enough credit for being smart enough to take the shortest path to safety...

I live in northeast ohio near

I live in northeast ohio near PA. The wooly bear I saw today was completely black. Bundle up!

I live in the same area.

I live in the same area. Today hubster found a wooly bear heading for his wood heated garage.

As he described it to me, the front 2/5ths were black, second 2/5ths were rust and the last 1/5th black.

We have noted that the squirrels around here are crazy active in stashing goodies this year.

Also, though it's hunting season, the deer aren't running as much. We don't hunt but our paths to work along areas where deer bolt across the road regularly. Not so much of that going on right now.

I live on the west side of

I live on the west side of Atlanta next to Sweetwater Creek State Park. I grew up in northern NY state with the Farmers Almanac. Colors on caterpillers never meant too much. But here in Atlanta all the Wooly Worms this fall are totally black. B-r-r-r-r

I live in the Akron, Ohio

I live in the Akron, Ohio area. I have seen quite a few this week and all of them are 3/4 brown, only the tips were black. We shall see how the winter turns out for us. I read somewhere we are to expect little snow like last year but very cold temps.

Live in Kansas and have seen

Live in Kansas and have seen woolly bears that are totaly black except a dot of redish brown on back and front end. They were nice size also. Can't wait to see what kind of winter we will have.

Every year the wooly worm

Every year the wooly worm been black with a little orange in the middle,been lots of rain not to cold, but this year the wooly worm is all orange with a little black on it head,first time i seen this,we had 4 months dry hope it stays dry through the winter

I live in Minnesota and not

I live in Minnesota and not even seen one this year.....as anyone in MN. seen one? if so? what's our winter looking like????

Whether predicting the type

Whether predicting the type of winter by observing woolly bear is scientificly possible or not, it gives folks something to talk about and a reason to send the children outside to get some fresh air.

I was out walking around a

I was out walking around a lake today and saw 17 wooly bear caterpillars. All but 4 had wider orange stripes than black. According to the Almanac" we will not have a mild winter... So, who's right ... the wooly bear or the almanac??

Im from Central PA and saw my

Im from Central PA and saw my first one yesterday and he was mostly black/ with a 3/4" of orange. I guess its time to get out my Woolies,lol Burrrrrrrrr

I had to look this up. For

I had to look this up. For the first time in 12 years we are being "over run" with these things... I had 6 today. That is more than I have seen in all my years here combined. Had a mild winter last year, and I am afraid we are going to get hammered this year (2012/13).

Why are the bands different

Why are the bands different every year? And why do so many caterpillars stripes look so similar every year?
I think a clue to a hard winter might also have something to do with bird migration. Sometimes it seems that the song birds leave earlier than previous years.

They are solid orange in

They are solid orange in southern Indiana too. I've only seen a couple which were solid black. (Rebels) No stripes... looks like a mild winter!

The wolly bears here have

The wolly bears here have about 5 brown segments, I have seen many this fall. The Acorn crop was heavy this year, the squirels, Deer, chimunks and Turkeys ate them as fast as they fell. There are a lot of squirels this year and all teh animals are very busy eating as much as possible. I am assuming a harsh winter is on the way.

I saw one in southern Ohio

I saw one in southern Ohio today that was all tan and had only about 1/3 of the usual punt of bristols on it. If the wolley is correct it will be a very mild winter if he's wrong I believe there will be one less moth next summer.

In September, I saw 4 all

In September, I saw 4 all black wholly bears. Now in October, all the wholly bears I have seen have about 1/4 black on each end and brown in the middle. Also, we can't step out in our backyard without walking on acorns. So, I have a feeling it is going to be a long cold winter, with the ice and snow having fun with us. But I guess we will have to wait and see.

I saw my first one of the

I saw my first one of the season about 15 minutes ago just outside my garage & it was ALL black. I'm just outside Gloversville, NY, bordering the Adirondacks in Upstate NY. I know people think they're a myth but almost every year I've seen them they've matched. Funny one year I saw all white & thought oh boy; we're probably going to get tons of snow & we barely got any. We've had an easy winter last year & the one before wasn't too bad. So my guess (along with my fellow black buddy) is cold times ahead.

I have a wooly winter-over in

I have a wooly winter-over in my barn every year. Last year's visitor had a very wide brown band and winter was mild. This year, however, my visitor is nearly all black!

I have never in my lifetime,

I have never in my lifetime, I'm 61, ever saw a pure white wooly bear. It had a pinstrip, very small down the middle of its back. I saw 3 of them in less then 1 week. I only saw 1 woolly bear that had the usual brown with black on the tips of both ends. A WHITE WOOLLY BEAR!!!!!! I can't believe it what does it mean. Today someone in a pizza shop saw one too and is alittle afraid about what the future
holds.....Please respond asap> TY. can't wait to hear from you..............Mccbaby

mccbaby - the one and only

mccbaby - the one and only time I ever saw a pure white woolly was a few years back when we had an enormous amount of snow. It wasn't a particularly cold winter but we had above average snowfall.

Awesome observations and so

Awesome observations and so different-from one part of the country to the other . The ones I've spotted here in northern new york where I've lived all of my life, are 98% golden/reddish/brown with very little black, if any. Never before have I seen this. Also the hair was so much thinner than its usual thick make up. Possibly a mild, warmer winter. I am a wolly bear believer. Regardless, the change of seasons in the northern regions is awesome.
Time to bundle up folks,,,happy winter.
Katie

Sept. 27,2012 Saw two woolly

Sept. 27,2012
Saw two woolly bears in the last few weeks,
both were light orange, no black on them, hum.
Ithaca, N. Y.

Erie-saw a woolly bear

Erie-saw a woolly bear caterpillar this morning with NO brown on it...a bad winter ??

It is sept 24th and all I

It is sept 24th and all I have seen this year for wooly bears are all black. I really cant wait to see what this winter has in store for us. Im getting a generator for sure. I live in spencer, mass.

The photo you have is not a

The photo you have is not a wooly bear caterpillar! It's a spotted tussock moth caterpillar. At least try to get the photo right.

and the real experts tell us

and the real experts tell us that it's also known as the "yellow woolly bear"...

children, be very quiet. We

children, be very quiet. We are about to meet a yellow wooly bear... otherwise known as the "Winnie-the-Pooh Bear" caterpillar!

Syracuse NY .... I just saw

Syracuse NY .... I just saw one on my door it was tanish red no dark brown at all... Wierd. I've never seen them like that before

The one a friend of ours

The one a friend of ours found had almost no black, very little on each end...been a lot of yellow jacket nest this year............will just have to wait and see.......

I don't understand, one

I don't understand, one person in NJ commented all orange, yet another said completely black.

have not seen a single wooley bear yet in nj, anyone else?

I have seen many of them that

I have seen many of them that are all black this year. I live in Maryland. Every year they are different....this is the first I have seen so many all black....we will see..

I haven't seen one yet this

I haven't seen one yet this year, but last year I saw a few and they all had huge rust bands, we had a very warm winter!

I saw one today that was

I saw one today that was completely orange/brown, no black at all, in Vermont. So I'm hoping for a mild winter since I have a broken ankle and I'm not looking forward to walking thru snow with crutches. Anyone else in VT/NH seen any?

9-13-2012. Last wknd, I saw

9-13-2012. Last wknd, I saw several Woolies in my back yard. Some were cream colored, some were light-brown/orange, and some were all black. None appeared to have bands. They were hiding in the thick grass between stuff. I was thinking that maybe they get darker as they mature in age. I hope this winter is a bit colder than last though -the bugs are real bad this summer in Chesapeake, VA.

Just found a Wooly bear

Just found a Wooly bear caterpillar on the front walk here in mid southern Ontario Canada just outside of Sarnia. All orange. Hopefully that means a mild winter. Don't want a repeat of two years ago when the 402 highway was shut down because of the huge snowfall.

It is Sept. 1st today in the

It is Sept. 1st today in the Rocky Mtns. of Colorado. Twice in the last week, I have seen the "wooly worms" crawling across my pavement. Both were good sized worms and both were entirely black in color....no brown bands on either of them! If the folk lore remains true, we will be in for a severe winter this year...which is good because we have been so dry from past winters hence our summer of forest fires here in Colorado. I sure hope it is a very snowy cold winter here in the Rockies!

We found many black and

We found many black and yellow/orange ones in Austin, NV today. My 4 year old is fascinated by them and wants to see them change into moths. Will they survive in a water jug with holes and cottonwood leaves?

Short answer: no. Better

Short answer: no.

Better answer: ask the local librarian to get you a child appropriate book on butterflies and moths. There should be pics of all the life stages.

They can also find for you what food woolies eat, and how deep of dirt is needed for them to make cocoons in. I do not remember if these make them underground (tomato caterpillars do) or spin a silk type one in a protected, above ground spot.

BUT. No caterpiller will change the preference for the taste of food it likes. It MUST keep having the same (boring to us) kind of fresh leaves daily. Or it will starve, like any baby would, without a bottle.

It's likely time for making that cocoon. Growing season is over.

August 27, 2012 and we still

August 27, 2012 and we still have not seen one single Wooly worm this year. Last year, we saw many that were almost completely blonde or very light brown and we had an unusally warm winter. This year, we are not seeing ANY anywhere. (southeast Ohio). has anyone else seen any this year?

Mostly, if not all brown here

Mostly, if not all brown here in Maine

I saw a wooly bear a few days

I saw a wooly bear a few days ago Aug 25, 2012, it was all black. Just to let you know.
thanks,

All black ones here in

All black ones here in Fairview tn

I have watched them for many

I have watched them for many years and it holds pretty true, last year 2011 was a wide band and we had a mild winter, I just saw some with no band, hope this is not true of the worst winter ever. Get ready folks

Ours appear to be all black

Ours appear to be all black with an under shadowing of orange. We will see what this winter brings.

I live in central Wisconsin,

I live in central Wisconsin, and have seen three Woolly Bear Caterpillers Between April 12th and 15th. They are crawling, look big and fat. How come I am seeing them now? I am a road/walker and see a lot of nature.

Hi, Echo, In northern

Hi, Echo,
In northern climates, there are usually 2 generations of banded woollybear (isabella tiger moth) per year. Overwintering caterpillars emerge around May. They eat a bit and than pupate. Adult moths emerge in early summer. These will then produce another generation that emerges around August. These caterpillars will overwinter, starting the cycle again.
The fall-generation caterpillars are perhaps more noticeable because they are searching for a good place to overwinter, so they travel about more.
In southern areas, there could be three or more generations. Hope this helps!

i love to explore and find

i love to explore and find bugs. When i do look for bugs the 1 that i try to look for the most is the Woolly Bear Caterpillars. I love caterpillars so much. I look for them every day and I'm always asking my mom if i can order some but she says NO!!!! I'm in 2 grade and i have a sister that is in 3 grade. I have a mom named Sasha. I have a dad named Andy and i have a dog named Howie he is just a baby!

Not sure if it is the "Woolly

Not sure if it is the "Woolly Bear" I've always used to predict the winters in NE Indiana or something different (because I've seen such a wide variety over the years)-- but I always called them "Woolly Worms" . . . My parents always told me simply that the lighter the color the harsher the winter and I'm pretty sure it has always been correct. I remember seeing white ones and then having a very harsh winter. As an adult I don't always see them but this past fall I saw more of a yellow color one . . . so far it has been a realatively mild winter. My prediction was, "It will not be a harsh winter--more of an 'inbetween' winter." Again, I don't know if what I look at is the "Woolly Bear."

I found a Woolley bear under

I found a Woolley bear under some of my wood that's piled up all curled up in 27 degree weather on January 18th 2012. I thought it was dead because how cold it is outside but when I brought it inside it eventually opened up and started crawling around everywhere. It's really strange to find an alive one in the middle of the winter. This one has a wide black stripe where it's head is and long brown/orange middle and a short black tip. I live in Radnor Ohio and so far this winter it has been very wet and mild. Maybe 2 inches of snow all winter here so far.

We had an ALL BLACK Woolly

We had an ALL BLACK Woolly Worm in our driveway over the weekend, in Garner NC. It could mean a COLD Winter!! I put him in safe area under some bushes.

I Found an all black "Woolly

I Found an all black "Woolly Bear Caterpillar" on North Colonial Dr. Cortland, Ohio. I also have three friends in the same area, with one in Champion, Ohio that found all black ones too. As my father, God rest his soul....used to say. It's gonna be a very bad winter. Nov.2,2011.

RE: the number of wooly worms

RE: the number of wooly worms this year - it all depends on where you are. There are almost none in Illinois this year - very odd, indeed! Maybe they've gone the way of the honey bees.

Does the fact that we seem to

Does the fact that we seem to have sooo many woolly bears have anything to do with predicting the weather? I don't remember a time when there has been so many. Dodging them in the road is a challenge!

Here in waaaaayyyy Upstate

Here in waaaaayyyy Upstate New York on Vermont border we are just now seeing Wooley Bears for the first time this year. Alll so far have been even between black front, orange middle, and black rear. The "lore" I have always heard is that the segments predict how long each portion of the winter will be---front section is for Fall and Early winter; middle for mid winter and rear for end of winter shading in to spring. This does correspond with a harsh or mild winter if you think about it just not direct temperatures. Altho we have very few squirrels out here in Farm Country (go figure!) we have a bumper crop of black walnuts on yard trees and have seen LOTS of acorns on trees and ground. Have seen LOTS of foxes recently many more and with more fur than you would expect. More road kills than usual among all furry things---does this mean they are more active looking for food? And baby skunk in the daytime last week! Enjoying introducing very curious grand daughter to Wooley Bears and lady bugs etc but NOT so much the incredibly ANNOYING and prolific "Biting flies" that followed the recent flooding here. What is UP with THAT??????

I just saw a woolly bear ALL

I just saw a woolly bear ALL ORANGE with just alittle black band around face. What does that mean? I live in upstate NY

Hello, it might have been a

Hello, it might have been a different variety. According ro folkore, the narrower the brown (orangish) band on the woolly bear caterpillar, the more severe the coming winter.

I'm upstate as well, in the

I'm upstate as well, in the Finger Lakes area right near Lake Ontario. I have fou d 3 woolys that had a little black on head and tail and a big band of brown/orange. A friend of mine is finding the same. I haven't seen this much brown/orange on one in quite awhile. Livestock don't look too shaggy coated either.

I can only hope it will be mild, as I absolutely hate winter.

i have seen wooly worms this

i have seen wooly worms this year that are almost blond with no red or black bands. any idea what this means? i am in the laurel highlands in western pa

If by "blond" you mean the

If by "blond" you mean the lighter brown section, it means that the wider the middle brown section is (or the more brown segments there are), the milder the coming winter will be. Conversely, a narrow brown band is said to predict a harsh winter.

We are in So. CT near NY

We are in So. CT near NY border and just found a Wolly Worm that is about 50:50 brown and black. What does this mean for CT winter?

We are in southern ct and

We are in southern ct and just found a black and brown caterpillar that was evenly brown and black. What does that mean??

I have also been seeing a lot

I have also been seeing a lot of woolly bears here in central Ohio that are exactly half brown and half black. I am also curious as to what that means.

I found quite a few this year

I found quite a few this year that are all brown, one had a small segment on the front that was black. My neighbor also found all brown ones too. I live in Webberville, MI

Here in Toronto Ontario I

Here in Toronto Ontario I have seen off white and totally gray ones:-) Interesting! Two one the off white and the other one was silver gray.

Stay away from these, the

Stay away from these, the bristles are infectious.

All Black here in Salvisa. Ky

All Black here in Salvisa. Ky from North Carolina and have always seen striped in NC! I think the solid colors mean a solid winter!!

They are all black here in

They are all black here in Springfield Twp, NJ too. Have never seen them all black!

The Wooly I saw this week

The Wooly I saw this week appears to be all black but with a shadowing of rust color beneath the black.I had heard of the Wooly's predictions but had forgotten so now will see if we have a rough winter. We live in Michigans Upper Peninsula.

On my way home from work, I

On my way home from work, I have been seeing that wolly worm on the road and it was very black every time I have seen it and I am seeing it more and more. I live in Roughemont NC

I agree, all that I have

I agree, all that I have found here in North East Ohio, 2 miles from Lake Erie are also all black. Not boding well for a smooth winter at all.

I live in NE Ohio as well.

I live in NE Ohio as well. Just returned from a walk in the Metro Parks, saw several of them and they were more than half orange..... Although I was not at the lake but in the Chagrin area, I wonder why the difference in the same general vicinity... Still hoping for a mild winter!!

Fortunately, the woolly bear

Fortunately, the woolly bear caterpillar I had just found late last week was almost entirely reddish-brown, with hardly any black whatsoever. I sure could use a mild winter here in Northern Virginia. Last winter was hellacious, with a three foot snowfall in one weekend last February. I am soooo not looking forward to a repeat of that. Thank you ~ (•8-D

I live in Fayetteville, NC.

I live in Fayetteville, NC. Just saw a wooley worm for the first time! I had to look it up just to know what it was. I was so surprised at how big it was. I took pictures with my finger for comparison :) No brown/red at all. Completely black. It will be interesting to see what the weather is like here!

I live in Western NC about an

I live in Western NC about an hour west of Boone, NC. This year the Woolly Worms here are mostly black with very little red or either all black.

I live in the southwest part

I live in the southwest part of Virginia (the mountains) and I've seen two caterpillars, barely the tinest of black on each end and 99% brown/orange in the middle. Never seen one that wasn't striped at all---interesting to see what kind of winter this will be.

I have seen all black ones

I have seen all black ones then some with black on each end and brown in the middle. What does that mean?

“If they’re solid black, it’s

“If they’re solid black, it’s going to be a bad winter. I’m hoping for a bad winter,” said Dick Kilmer of Moscow.

Georgia wolly worms/bears are

Georgia wolly worms/bears are all orange this year as well.

NJ wooly bears are all orange

NJ wooly bears are all orange this year too! I thought I was imagining it, but then I found this article. I wonder what is going on?

Wooly bears, Acorns and ice

Wooly bears, Acorns and ice in the Northeast.

This year there are so many acorns I cant walk a step in the back yard without stepping on three. The wooly bears are all orange though. This combination usually means that when we have precipitation we will see little snow, a lot of ice and the winter will be longer than normal. We are collecting the acorns for the deer due to the ice build up on trees will make it nearly impossible for them to get a decent meal in late february. Signing off in the lower hills of the Berkshires

Here in S.W. Missouri, as far

Here in S.W. Missouri, as far back as when I first came here in 1965, all the old folks predicted the winter as to how black looking they were. When lighter, a mild winter, when dark, a harder winter.

Our wooly worms/bears are all

Our wooly worms/bears are all orange also! Here in central southern michigan. What does it mean?!

Our woollies have always had

Our woollies have always had thick dark bands on them. yesterday I saw two without a single band....they were both a dark orange, very furry and quite large. what does this mean for this winter in southern Wisconsin?

I grew up in PA. One year I

I grew up in PA. One year I showed my Mom one I found, she said"Oh No are they all like that?" I told her yes, she said, we're in for a bad winter" Well those wooly bears were right, it was a terrible winter. this past fall in West TN the wooly bears were black and so far we have had 17 inches of snow when a normal total snowfall for the season may be 1 to 2 inches. I have lived here for 14 years and this is the first time I ever saw the wooly bears all black and I would definitely say they were right! So much for science ha!ha! GOD BLESS!

Interesting article -- but

Interesting article -- but what does it mean when up here in central New York, neither I nor my family have yet to SEE even one woolly bear this Fall? It's the first time I can recall that happening in my 73 years up here.

In up state NY (Watertown)

In up state NY (Watertown) yesterday I saw my first Woolly Bear of the season and it was very black on both ends with an equal amount of rust in the middle. So in three parts two were very black and one deep rust. :)

I just saw my first woolly

I just saw my first woolly bear of this season and, believe it or not, it was about a half inch of black on the head and the rest was all brown/orange. Does this mean no winter?????

I also just saw my first

I also just saw my first woolly bear of the season, in Albany, NY. It had a pretty broad band of brown, maybe 1/2 of its body length, in the middle. Mild winter would be nice.

As of October, 2012, I've

As of October, 2012, I've seen 2 wooly bear caterpillers with NO BLACK. Does anyone know what that means for Catskill Mountain weather this season?
Thanks!

This is the first time I hear

This is the first time I hear this about the Woolly Bear Caterpillar although I've been seeing them my whole life! Thank you!

I knew of wooly worms in

I knew of wooly worms in Nebraska but here in Denver, Colorado I don't find the wooly worms. Do you know what areas the worms do not ive in? and why?

We too were brought up on

We too were brought up on looking at the wooly bears for how cold the winters would be. We were told that the blacker they were the colder it would be.
Personally, I hope they are wrong, this year's are mostly black. Like most everyone else, the squirrels are very busy collecting this years bumper crop of nuts.

I do believe in the woolly

I do believe in the woolly bears prediction of who winter will be. I have lived in Ohio for 10 yrs now. I heard this when I first moved here. I was like,,, what that's crazy.. But they did seem to let us know and they were correct just about every yr. Crazy but thankful to be ready for a harsh winter. I grew up in Maine. We have BAD winters up there. So this was very interesting. So to end this note.. I seen 4 this week and they are all Black.. with just a little rust brown by the head and on its tail.. and we have had much colder weather for this time of yr already.. not much of a fall weather.

well Hope you have a safe winter and Stay WARM :0)

katriz
Jackson Center, Ohio

Interesting that we are

Interesting that we are getting such a disparity in colors of wooly bears in Ohio. I was out walking just minutes ago and saw four with very wide brown centers with just a bit of black at each end. This would indicate a mild winter based on wooly bear lore.

I agree. I have paid

I agree. I have paid attention to them all my life, and I am now in my late 40's. It looks like a bad winter this year, the ones I have been seeing are all black with a tail of brown. I am from Northern Indiana, so I can't wait to see them prove itself right as a predictor once again.

I believe in the woolly bear.

I believe in the woolly bear. I have seen several in my area this year, and the squirrels has been very busy this fall. I'm looking for a long cold winter this year in East Central Kentucky.

Very interesting and

Very interesting and informative article. A friend of mine recently told me squirrels were very active this past summer gathering all the nuts they could, which he said they do for in preparation for a long harsh winter. I hope he's wrong!

I was raised on this way of

I was raised on this way of forecasting the winters. The woolys here in my part of Ky. are showing very little brown. Very large area of black on both ends. Will be interesting to note what kind of winter we end up with. Unusually cold for this time of year and early frost so far...

I live in N.E. Ohio just east

I live in N.E. Ohio just east of Cleveland and the wolly bears I'm finding are almost all brown with only the very tips on each end black. This would indicate a warm winter here. I hope they are right.

I live in the same part of

I live in the same part of Ohio I've been out archery hunting for the past few weeks and seen dozens off woolly bears with little to no brown stripe and the buck I got Monday over I'm pa had more fat on real it then pony deer I've ever got I would say we are going to have one real bad winter

I live in this area of Ohio

I live in this area of Ohio too and the Woolies we've seen have a large brown middle with just the ends being black. Just like last year! My bet is on the Woolie and we are having a mild winter (so I hope!)

I have also heard this all my

I have also heard this all my life and I agree has been accurate to a point. My belief is old sayings from generation to generation have thier reasons to carry on, If they did not believe in knowing what they see to be the truth, which is to predict the coming winter. Good feeling to read this article.
Thank you

i have heard as a child for

i have heard as a child for weather forcasting the catapiller is quite accurate in priducting the coming winter

This is something I've heard

This is something I've heard all my life, passed down from several generations in my family. I never made the empirical observation myself, but my grandmother did every year, and she swore by it! Some other signs she looked for were the thickness of hulls on hickory nuts and walnuts, and if the garden produced a bountiful crop that summer.

I have to agree some with

I have to agree some with Craig King. I have watched the Wolly Worm for years but have not gotten any answers about the weather. I find the the Quantity of Nuts and wild berries that are produced, the thickness of the shells are a better clue as to the temperature of the winter. Also find that the closer to the ground that the wasps and hornets build their nests in the summer the colder it will be in the winter. I think that folks in different areas have their own special ways of determining how they think the weather is forecasted in that area.
Hardyville,Va

In MN, we know we are in for

In MN, we know we are in for a long winter when the highway crews are putting up snow fences in Aug.

hmmm very cool and my

hmmm very cool and my daughter was facinated when i read it to her

Very interesting. Thanks for

Very interesting. Thanks for the good read & keep on predicting!

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