Every year around the beginning of September, we start looking for the signs of the winter ahead. We usually mention the weather-lore surrounding acorns, crickets, spiders, and of course persimmon seeds. As the legend goes, if you cut open the seed and clearly see the shape of a spoon inside, a harsh winter with heavy wet snow is supposedly on tap. A fork shape inside denotes a mild winter with light powdery snow, and a knife shape indicates an icy winter with cutting winds.
We also look to a fuzzy little caterpillar which makes its appearance in early fall each year. (They actually appear in the spring as well but seem to go unnoticed at that time of year.) These caterpillars, often referred to as Woolly Worm or Woolly Bear caterpillars, have a special ability to predict the weather to come. Depending on the color of the bands, you may or may not be in for a rough winter.
As folklore goes, you need to look at the black hairs at each end of this tiny creature. Legend has it that the more black hairs a woolly bear has, the worse off the winter. If the caterpillar has more orange, then the winter will be mild.
Some folks have taken this to an extreme. Supposedly, there are thirteen segments in a typical banded woolly bear, and many people believe that each segment represents one week of winter. Orange segments predict mild weeks, and black ones foretell bad winter weather.
Others also look at the thickness of the hair — thick means a bad winter ahead, and sparse means a mild winter.
One more weather belief surrounding this tiny weather forecaster revolves around the direction it’s coming from when found. If the woolly worm is traveling north, count on a mild winter. If he’s headed south, get ready for a long cold winter.
Have you noticed these weather predictors crawling around your yard or sidewalk yet? If so do share with us here so we can compare it to the persimmon seed outlook, which we usually have by late September.
And, of course, be sure to check out our latest winter weather outlook!