Can This Bug Really Predict A Harsh New York Winter?
A harsh winter in the Southern Tier of New York and Northeast Pennsylvania? What exactly does a 'harsh winter' really mean in our corner of the world?
Most of our winters are harsh, I would say. Plenty of snow, ice conditions, and colder-than-cold temperatures. The Twin Tiers of New York and Pennsylvania might not have the harshest winter on the planet, but we sure do get our share of undesirable weather conditions between December and April most years.
And there's no shortage of weather predictors to give us a clue as to what to expect for the upcoming season whether you choose to believe it or not. One of those winter weather predictors is the Woolly Bear Caterpillar.
We've heard these tales since we were a child. What exactly is a Woolly Bear caterpillar? Check out the video below.
The Almanac website says that this caterpillar is also known as a Woolly Worm, and quotes their weather predicting legend as such:
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 Almanac
Here's what the National Weather Service has to say:
As with most folklore, there are 2 other versions to this story. The first one says that the woolly bear caterpillar's coat will indicate the upcoming winter's severity. So, if its coat is very woolly, it will be a cold winter. The final version deals with the woolly bear caterpillar's direction of travel of the worms. It is said that Woolly Bears crawling in a southerly direction are trying to escape the cold winter conditions of the north. - National Weather Service
How did the Woolly Bear Caterpillar become weather predicting famous? The Almanac credits Doctor Curran who was a curator of insects at the New York City American Museum of Natural History, who looked at the average number of reddish-brown segments and came to a conclusion as to what the upcoming winter would bring, weather-wise.
The Almanac goes on to explain that the good Doctor continued his experiments over several more years to validate the weather-predicting claim and in the end, the Woolly Worm became one of the most recognizable caterpillars in North America.
So now you know the history of this bug and it's weather predicting talents...or lack of it. The Almanac notes that it is just that - folklore. The National Weather Service notes that this caterpillar can't really predict what will be in store for us and explains it in detail in its article - 'Woolly Bear Caterpillar: A Winter Weather Predictor or Not?'
In case we want to believe anyway, what can the Southern Tier of New York and Northeastern Pennsylvania expect this winter season according to the Woolly Bear Caterpillar? Well, you'll just have to get outside and find a Woolly Bear Caterpillar to find out.
But, according to a Rochester, NY television station - News10 NBC’s Meteorologist Rich Caniglia observed one of the caterpillars recently and noted that it "had a little black fur near the head with brown through the body and blacker towards the tail."
That means a mild start to winter and a harsh cold and snow end of the season as folklore is told. But then again, it's Rochester. When does that city ever have a mild winter?
Time will tell. Either way, get your winter clothing ready to wear, dig out the snow shovel/snow blower, buy ice melt, put on the winter tires, and you will be as ready as you can for whatever Mother Nature throws our way.
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Gallery Credit: Meg Dowdy