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Mr. Caterpillar, What's Our Winter Gonna be Like? (Woolly Bear Reveals All!)
Madison.com ^ | October 5, 2007 | Bill Novak

Posted on 10/05/2007 6:14:35 PM PDT by Diana in Wisconsin

Will it be a long, hard winter? Let's ask Mr. Woolly Bear Caterpillar.

If the cute fuzzy crawler has a big brown stripe in the middle and smaller black stripes on each end, winter will be mild. A small brown stripe in the middle and bigger black stripes, winter will be harsh.

At least that's the scoop in the bug world. Scurrying squirrels portend long, cold days ahead if they squirrel away as many acorns and nuts they can find, putting up extra provisions for the bleak days ahead.

It might not be science, but considering the batting average of most meteorologists, why not put our trust in bugs, animals and trees, when it comes to predicting how cold or mild or snowy winter will be?

Weather folklore has been around for millenia, all the way back to biblical times, as noted in Matthew 16:2, when the writers noted a red sky at night meant good weather the next day and a red sky in the morning signaled storms ahead.

While how far down the feathers have grown on a partridge's leg might not be the most accurate methodology of determining the length and severity of winter, it's a heckuva lot more fun than Doppler radar, isobars and barometric pressure.

Noted bug expert Phil Pellitteri, a UW-Madison entomologist, doesn't give much credence to the forecasting ability of the woolly bear caterpillar, or from hornets and wasps either.

"A northeast tradition is the higher the wasp's nest, the harsher the winter, so you really don't want to find a nest 20 feet off the ground," Pellitteri said.

"But as far as the woolly bear (caterpillar) goes, some species are solid black and some are solid brown, so does the black one predict a winter like in Antarctica and the brown one a winter like in Miami?"

Folklore runs rampant in weather prognostication. If we are to believe nature...

A warm November means a bad winter.

Onion skins thin, mild winter coming in; onion skins thick and tough, winter will be cold and rough.

Corn husks thick and tight, apple skins are tough, birds leave early, squirrel tails are bushy, thick coats on bears and horses, well, you get the picture.

Autumn leaves falling early (mild winter) or late (hard winter) are popular omens, but Madison city forester Marla Eddy said it's more a matter of species than severity of the upcoming season.

"The soft wood trees, silver maple, box elder, honey locusts, shed their leaves quicker, while the hard woods llike black walnut, oak and hickory hang on to their leaves longer," Eddy said.

"Frost is the biggest influence for leaf drop," she said. "Frost affects the leaf tissue, so if there is no frost, that'll keep the leaves on longer."

Autumn leaves taking a long time to fall is supposed to mean you should prepare for a cold winter. This must have come from someone who had a stand of hickory trees in the back 40, each tree holding on to its leaves while a foot of snow piled up in the fields.

Oaks dropping a whole mess of acorns is supposed to mean a bad winter is coming, but Eddy said that's a sign of earlier stress on the tree and the oak is listening to its own life cycle, just trying to survive.

"If an apple or nut tree is somewhat stressed it will be more prolific and tries to dispense more seeds," she said. "We had a near drought early in the summer followed by record rains, so the trees were stressed, which is why we would see more nuts this fall. It's the survival of the species."

Spiders are also predictors of winter, according to legend. If the cobwebs are bigger than normal or there are more spiders inside the house, they know a bad winter is coming. A web was discovered in Texas this year that's 200 feet wide, but forecasters, to my knowledge, aren't expecting 20-foot snow drifts and sub-zero temps in Houston.

The Farmer's Almanac, a treasure chest of folklore and legend that's as accurate as we want it to be when it comes to weather (I mean, if it says it's going to rain tomorrow, well gee, it probably is going to rain SOMEWHERE tomorrow, right?) lists some of the more bizarre hard winter predictors, such as pigs gathering sticks, insects marching in a bee line instead of meandering, and mice eating their way into your home.

How about the persimmon seed?

Cut a persimmon fruit in half. If the seed inside is knife-shaped, a cold, icy winter lies ahead. If the seed is fork-shaped, milder days are in store. A spoon-shaped seed means keep the shovel ready for heavy snow. I see a flatware pattern here. I'm hungry.

Weather Central meteorlogist Brian Olson can't use woolly bear caterpillars, wasp nests or red spots on the breast bone of the Thanksgiving turkey (a lot of spots means a cold and snowy winter), relying instead on boring Doppler radar, computer models and NOAA weather satellites.

What does the winter ahead really look like, Mr. Weatherman?

"There's no reason to see anything harsh," Olson said, really going out on a limb. "We should have average to above normal temperatures through December, and nothing too bad for snowfall."

Well. The woolly bear caterpillar could have told you that.


TOPICS: Conspiracy; Pets/Animals; Science; Weather
KEYWORDS: caterpillar; weather; winter; woollybear
Wake me up in April...
1 posted on 10/05/2007 6:14:42 PM PDT by Diana in Wisconsin
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To: Diana in Wisconsin

The oak out front has produced so many acorns, I can’t count them.

I added a second ploy this year, and a salt spreader.

Gotta remember to order salt. LOL.


2 posted on 10/05/2007 6:24:18 PM PDT by patton (cuiquam in sua arte credendum)
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To: Diana in Wisconsin

So have any capterpillorigists analyzed this one?


3 posted on 10/05/2007 6:25:57 PM PDT by AmericaUnited
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To: patton

you also added a second ploW ;)


4 posted on 10/05/2007 6:28:06 PM PDT by leda (19yrs ... only 4,981yrs to go ;))
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To: leda

Stop laughing at me, dangit. You know I am spelling-impaired.


5 posted on 10/05/2007 6:30:01 PM PDT by patton (cuiquam in sua arte credendum)
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To: patton

we all laugh along with you :D

i will certainly be happy if we get
a big dump of snow this winter tho.


6 posted on 10/05/2007 6:34:45 PM PDT by leda (19yrs ... only 4,981yrs to go ;))
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To: Diana in Wisconsin
What does it mean if it runs over one of these?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Owl_Eagle

If what I just wrote made you sad or angry,
it was probably just a joke.

7 posted on 10/05/2007 6:37:30 PM PDT by South Hawthorne (In Memory of my Dear Friend Henry Lee II)
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To: leda

Not snow, freezing rain. Worth a lot more money.


8 posted on 10/05/2007 6:39:33 PM PDT by patton (cuiquam in sua arte credendum)
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To: patton

Our English Walnut tree is loaded this year too.


9 posted on 10/05/2007 6:40:08 PM PDT by mware (By all that you hold dear..on this good earth... I bid you stand! Men of the West!)
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To: mware

Yeah - the neighbors black walnut is dropping so much fruit in my yard - well, let’s say, batting practice is interesting. And all in one direction.


10 posted on 10/05/2007 6:46:24 PM PDT by patton (cuiquam in sua arte credendum)
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To: Diana in Wisconsin

I’ve never heard of the wasp nest thing, but in New Mexico, I’ve got a nest in the eave of my roof about thirty feet off the ground.


11 posted on 10/05/2007 6:51:46 PM PDT by Muleteam1
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To: Diana in Wisconsin

I’ve heard that the height of the goldenrod is an indicator of snowdepth.


12 posted on 10/05/2007 7:29:25 PM PDT by metmom (Welfare was never meant to be a career choice.)
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To: patton

I hate trying to mow the lawn when the black walnuts are dropping. It’s not a problem mowing over them cause they get so far into the grass; it’s dodging them when you’re under the tree.


13 posted on 10/05/2007 7:32:29 PM PDT by metmom (Welfare was never meant to be a career choice.)
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To: Diana in Wisconsin

One of my meteorology professors had a real scientifc outlook about the winter. He didn’t like it when we had a nice, long, mild fall (like we are this year) because he said everything averages out and payback time is coming.

I’ve noticed that he’s right.


14 posted on 10/05/2007 7:34:33 PM PDT by metmom (Welfare was never meant to be a career choice.)
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"Watch it now, watch it!"
Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs

15 posted on 10/05/2007 11:17:54 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (Profile updated Friday, October 5, 2007. https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: metmom

Yeah. I don’t care who you are, them suckers hurt!


16 posted on 10/06/2007 5:36:26 AM PDT by patton (cuiquam in sua arte credendum)
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To: Owl_Eagle

LOL! Flat as a pancake. What a misguided doofus that spoiled little brat was.


17 posted on 10/06/2007 4:14:53 PM PDT by Diana in Wisconsin (Save The Earth. It's The Only Planet With Chocolate.)
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To: patton

I have FIFTEEN Black Walnut trees, all in a row coming from the road up to the house. The other day I was re-potting the planters by my back door and got bonked on the head with a black walnut, LOL! I was TWENTY FEET away from the tree!

I swear it was gunnin’ for me, like the apple trees that come to life in ‘The Wizard of Oz.’

They’re a great tree, but soooooo messy...and my goofy husband keeps planting more of them! Grrrrrrrr!


18 posted on 10/06/2007 4:17:22 PM PDT by Diana in Wisconsin (Save The Earth. It's The Only Planet With Chocolate.)
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To: Diana in Wisconsin

Look at the brite side - the wood is worth a fortune...


19 posted on 10/06/2007 7:33:30 PM PDT by patton (cuiquam in sua arte credendum)
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