Thursday, September 16, 2021

winter folklore: woolly bear edition

If you know, you know

Weather.gov is honest to god a pretty incredible website.** But -- hands down -- my favorite noteworthy little subpage, tucked gently into the archives for just the special few who google this arcane bit of trivia.... is the page dedicated to: 
Woolly Bear Caterpillar - Winter Predictor Or Not? 

pictured: ALL the wildlife
The story goes, if you want to know what to expect in the coming winter, check in with your resident caterpillars. Specifically, the Woolly Bear caterpillar, who is typically black at head and tail, and orange in the middle.
According to folklore, the amount of black on the woolly bear in autumn varies proportionately with the severity of the coming winter in the locality where the caterpillar is found.  The longer the woolly bear's black bands, the longer, colder, snowier, and more severe the winter will be.  Similarly, the wider the middle brown band is associated with a milder upcoming winter.  The position of the longest dark bands supposedly indicates which part of winter will be coldest or hardest.  If the head end of the caterpillar is dark, the beginning of winter will be severe.  If the tail end is dark, the end of winter will be cold. In addition, the woolly bear caterpillar has 13 segments to its body, which traditional forecasters say correspond to the 13 weeks of winter.

took this pic of an 'all orange' Bear in July 2017
if memory serves me right, this did not foretell a mild winter... lol
as evidenced by my not just one, but two rants on the subject...
Here in Maryland, we grew up understanding this to be nothing less than Accepted Canon -- the sacred principle by which we (and obvi, by "we" I mean me and my sister as small children, obvi) braced ourselves for the coming winter. 

9/12/2021 maryland
So, obviously, it's always something of an Exciting Moment for me when I spot my first Woolly Bear of the season. Which I did so last weekend just outside the feed room shed. 

AND!! It was this full-orange dude, undeniably signaling a mild winter to come! Yessss!!!

(Let's just ignore recent precedent described above, yes?)

9/14/2021 maryland
Except, hrm. Just days later, strolling out to the jump ring astride my favorite OTTB Charles... Well, I happened to spot this absolutely gargantuan be-furred beastie on the fence post.....

ok yea we definitely needed a closer look at this incontrovertible behemoth
Oy. Ok. That's a big Woolly Bear, guys. 

And not a single twinge or tint of rusty orange to be found. Foretelling a longer, snowier, colder, more severe winter ahead. 

9/16/2021 maryla.... wait, jk that's just resident woolly bear shetland stallion TT doin his daily constitutional...
sorry charlie, idk what it means either!
But what does it mean???

I gotta be honest, my heart is 100% set on a mild fall and gentle onset of winter.... Because it's my favorite season and who could deny me my own selfish whims?! But... It's also been a couple years since we had any sort of epically apocalyptical snow storms or deep freezes. 

Apparently we're all just going to have to wait and see, tho, since even our resident denizens the Woolly Bears can't come to a consensus on what to expect, womp. At least they're cute..ish?? 


(**Seriously tho, have you ever scrolled all the way to the bottom and perused all those many, many links?!)


16 comments:

  1. Apparently, the Farmer's Almanac says that TX is in for a harsh winter this year. Are those even for real?

    I think the woolly bears are cute anyhow :)

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    1. the cutest lol ;) and omg, texas really deserves a break in the weather imho, here's hoping the almanac is wrong!

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  2. OMG I am a huge weather.gov nerd, lol. I'm a trained storm spotter for them, read the Forecast Discussion twice daily, and yada yada, but I hadn't seen that before! So cool.

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  3. lol, I've also seen wasp nests close to the ground and those up high. So , once again, it's anybody's guess. :)

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    1. ooooooh never heard that about the wasps nests. tho, to be perfectly honest, i'd rather not see a nest in ANY location, thanks much lol...

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    2. I agree! I hate wasp nests. Here’s the lore: https://www.farmersalmanac.com/winter-weather-lore-and-wasps-nests-22569

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    3. oooh thanks for the fun link! tbh i kinda love folklore and old wives tales, ya know?

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  4. I saw an all black woolly bear caterpillar last weekend, too. Buckle up, all!
    Betsy in WI

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    1. ha seriously.... idk this whole past year has been reasonably mild except for maybe like a week or two here or there over summer and winter. i'm guessing we're due for a doozy...

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  5. Also a weather nerd. Lately I've been obsessed with Tropical Tidbits here in the sights of hurricane alley. Really good combination of data and interpretation. Trying to thread the needle of the dwindling winter hay supply + not losing $$$$ of hay to flooded barns (again)...

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    1. oooh nice resource! and ugh, i can't even imagine the tragedy of losing a barn full of hay to flooding, ugh....

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  6. I haven't seen any whoolies up here yet! But there is also lore that if the summer is particularly rainy, then the winter shall be snowy. It was VERY rainy here this summer, so I have concerns...

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    1. ooooh hm. ya know, we had a pretty nicely moisturized spring and early summer, but the last few months have been quite dry (except obvi the days right before we're scheduled to compete on grass, wtf). not AS DRY as past years -- like, a good soaking rain maybe every 3-5 weeks, but still drier than i like for charlie's feet. still curious what it'll all mean tho!

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  7. Make them fight in the bucket, whichever color wins is the winter we deserve lol

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  8. LOL @ the wooly bear shetland. Agree with L, make them fight it out for control of winter.

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