Is it Possible for a Woolly Bear Caterpillar From Brookfield to Predict Winter?
Recently, we released the official winter prediction from NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This week, we've enlisted the services of the Woolly Bear Caterpillar, but can they really predict our winter weather?
The other day my wife and I were walking on the Greenway in Brookfield and we came across a Woolly Caterpillar who was crossing the path. My wife mentioned that this particular Caterpillar had a reputation of being able to forecast the coming winter weather, you just had to know how to read the worm. So I did a little research, and here's what I found out:
According to the National Weather Service, who must also employ the Woolly Bear for its seasonal prognostication, the caterpillar has 13 distinct body segments of either rusty brown or black. If you believe in the folklore of the insect, those 13 segments correspond to the 13 weeks of winter. 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. The longer the woolly bear's black bands, the longer, colder, snowier, and more severe the winter will be. On the other hand, the wider the middle brown band supposedly means a milder winter is expected.
Now it gets even more complicated. Apparently, the position of the longest dark bands indicates which part of winter will be coldest or hardest. If the Caterpillar's head end is dark, then the start of winter will be severe, and if it's dark at the tail end, then the end of winter will be colder.
So if we look at the picture above that I took of this Woolly Caterpillar, it would seem there's a lot of brown, which would indicate a milder winter, however the head contains more bands of black than the tail-end. According to legend, this would mean that the start of winter will be colder than the end of winter.
So if you believe this sort of thing, then it looks like the Woolly Caterpillar, at least this particular one found in Brookfield, is predicting a mild winter with a rough start, and warmer finish. Actually that's not too far off from what NOAA predicted last week.