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Weather by Caterpillar?

Weather by Caterpillar?

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. According to folklore, 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.

You’ve Found A Woolly Bear Caterpillar… Now What?

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. As folklore goes, you need to look at the orange and black bands on this tiny creature —the more black a woolly bear has, the worse off the winter. If the caterpillar has more orange, then the winter will be mild.

A wide orange band means winter will be mild.

More black than orange means winter will be severe.

But keep in mind, the caterpillar must be banded with orange and black. All-orange or all-black caterpillars are not true woolly worms.

Other Beliefs of The Woolly Bear Caterpillar

  • 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 tell us what you’ve found for weather by caterpillar here or on our Facebook page.

And, of course, be sure to check out our latest winter weather outlook!

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  • Kay says:

    I just saw a totally black huge wooly caterpillar in my carport in Norman, Oklahoma. It has been a gorgeous, warm fall day — should I relocate Mr. Wooly from the concrete/brick carport to a place in my garden where he/she will find vegetation?

  • JOE says:

    I saw a Black Woolly Bear Caterpilla with the red bands on its body today in Gaithersburg, MD. 10/27/2009

  • david says:

    wooley bears can be trusted. When you see them crossing the road,,the earlier they cross the earlier the winter. The more of them,,the worse the winter. Darker bears..colder more snow.

  • Dina says:

    I saw a black woolly caterpillar on my front porch with hardly and orange on it at all. I live in Pittsburgh PA. Does that mean we will have a cold, long winter here in pittsburgh?

  • Debbie says:

    My daughter just found a wooleybear caterpillar heading north with alot of orange and very little black, we live in northeast Ohio.

  • Ricky says:

    I live in Paducah Ky. and all i have seen everywhere, and all over the roads are dark black woolyworms. Seems to be more than I have ever seen in my life.

  • BRENDA SCOTT says:


  • Jim says:

    I just saw (for the first time in my life as well and I’m 49) an ALL BLACK wooly bear In Greensboro NC. From what I’m reading, it looks the south is in for a rough winter and the north is looking pretty mild….by the way I moved here from upstate NY 🙂

  • kelle says:

    I live in kentucky and my daughter and I have seen nothing but huge and solid black I have never seen them like this before it makes me wonder what is to come!!!!

  • Patty says:

    Saw a totally black, very thick furred caterpillar this morning.
    I live in Northwest Florida. An early cold winter in store?

  • Mark says:

    This past Sunday we saw our first wolly bear. Almost all orange with very little black on each end. First one I have ever seen with so much orange.

  • Janice says:

    In over 60 years I have never seen an all black wooly bear.Am so glad we will be gone for the winter.

  • Lynn says:

    Completely black and very wooly here in Delaware. Saw a few last weekend while walking in the woods. I don’t know which direction-I wasn’t paying attention to where they were going-just what color they were.

  • Cheryl says:

    Here in New Hampshire I’ve recently seen two woolly bears. Both had just a small amount of black on either ends. I’ve never seen them with such a large amount of orange band. The black was barely even visible. Hoping between the woolly and the wasp nest that was built very low to the ground we’re in for a mild winter. We could really use one after the snowfall last year.

  • blanche says:

    the woolybears I have spotted in the northeastern part of Ohio are showing more black thickness than orange, and heading south, due to folklore, this is a sign of a cold winter, i hope i’am wrong, blanche

  • Paul Koster says:

    I saw a caterpillar with small black bands and a large orange one in the middle going north at Stone Ridge 12484 on the morning of 10-9-09. Wait to lay out the woollies?

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