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Weather by Caterpillar?

Read what folklore says about this fuzzy little critter and the winter ahead! Can we forecast 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!

Peter Geiger is the Editor of the Farmers' Almanac. Read his full biography.

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Frances

What does this mean?

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Kay

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

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

david

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

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

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

Ricky

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

I LIVE IN NORTHERN MICHIGAN. WE HAVE BEEN SEEING THE WOOLLY WORM WITH JUST A TOUCH OF BLACK ON EACH END. EACH ONE WE NOTED WERE HEADING EAST.

Jim

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

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

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

Mark

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

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

Lynn

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

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

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

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?

Pam Cook

I found a wooley bear caterpillar she has 8 black stripes and 4 brown stripes. I live in Miamisburg Ohio.

Barbara

I saw the first wooly worm on my carport. Solid Black. If true, we, in Kentucky are in for a rough winter. I have never saw a solid black. So Watch Out Kentucky.

leeanne pickering

I live in southern Ohio and we have seen several bright orange and some not so bright orange wolly worms in our area.
I hope that this means a mild mild winter for us.

Heather

I just saw a wooly wormblack on both ends but re almost in the whole middle heading north. North Carolina

Kelli

I found a solid black catapillar, very think haired in my driveway this morning. I guess this means it is a long, cold, hard winter to come!?!?!?

Mary

I live in Western New York and saw my first wooly caterpillar for the year yesterday. It was all orange — last year, they had thick black stripes and we had a very cold winter and overall snow fall was higher than average. I’m hoping ALL the caterpillars I see this year are totally orange!

Pam

I live in S. Central Ks, have yet to see any wooly worms that aren’t white! They are all over my yard. Any info on preditions?

Chuck Sproull

I live in southern Indiana, and in Aug and Sept I saw 2 Wooly Worm Catapillars (which we called Wooly Bears in the eastern states) with very thick wooly bright orange fur, and I think one was crawling north.

Carol

I was mowing and I saw a White Catapillar. Of course I didn’t run over it. But, I wanted to know what it means. When growing up our grandma would tell us a black one would be a bad winter and the brown ones would be a mild one. Live In West Virginia. Isn’t it to early for them. Sept 23, would love to hear your comments

Nancy Phillips

I saw a completely orange wooley bear caterpillar here in Waynesboro, VA (Shenandoah Valley) today. Not much snow for us I fear.

Barb

What does it mean when the wooly bear’s stripe goes from tip to tail? Climate change?

Sue Mongeau

Sunday 9/13/09 – Husband found an all black wooly climbing up our wall on our patio. We have never seen one all black. That means that Millersville, PA will be under a lot of snow this winter. At least we believe in the almanac since we were brought up in a farm community which surrounds Lancaster County. Mostly right many times.

Phil

I see a black one with thick hairs on my front porch. I was surprised that I saw one already! I live in St. Louis, MO

Carol

I have a brown and black catapillar on my patio and it is only July 22,2009. This seems awfully early to be seeing catapillars. I live in Ohio. Am I correct as far as this being early for them to be around?

Mary Rose Back

I found a solid black and fat wooly catterpillar and wonder if it is ready to make a cocoon I have it in a jar and am feeding it dandelions and clover. Is it an Isabella Tiger Mother or something else. It indeed is solid black, and just a very little hint of rust color in the very middle, but you have to look closely to even see it. I would value and appreciate an answer. Would like to take it into a school class before it makes its cocoon if that is what they do at this time of year.

Kaitlin & Mackenzie

We found 7 very large, very active Wooly Bears in the garden yesterday in Guelph. The back ends have much more black than their fronts. Does anyone know what they eat in particular? The children love to watch them – they are beautiful!

Fran

Feb 19, 2009. I found a wooly on my back stairs today. Holbrook MA.

Rebecca

Today is Feb, 12, 2009- I was walking down the road today – I live in upsate NY in the Catskills/Hudson Valley area, theres snow on the ground & its very cold, and as I was walking there was a Wooly bear crossing the road – I was shocked to see it as it is winter right now- I never recall seeing one at this time of year, I am wondering if this is normal? Or if it meens the winter won’t last much longer? Any insight would be greatly appreciated!

Julie  M.

Walking through one of our county parks in northwestern NJ, my almost 3 year old daughter sreamed as I nearly ‘smushed’ a black wooly caterpillar. Two strides later we spotted an orange wooly caterpillar. Through much investigation, we learned that both caterpillars are ‘related’ to the wooly bear. The orange caterpillar will become the Tiger moth, while the black one will become the Leopard moth. Therefore, since both were found within 5 feet from the other, are we having a mild or severe winter? I believe I’ll actually have to find the Banded Wooly Bear caterpillar before I can make that prediction. This is the wooly caterpillar that should be used to predict our upcoming winter’s precipitation forcast. Since I teach 5th grade Science, I’ve asked my students to keep their eyes peeled for one of these caterpillars. Once we’ve tracked one, we’ll let everyone know what we learn (with of bands & direction of travel).

Karen

I had several woolly bears in my yard this fall that were orange and black – I’d say more black than orange. I live in Loudoun County, VA.

D'Lise

I live in central Florida and have seen numerous woolies. My mother-in-law has about a dozen in her garden, all black with VERY thick fur. They are in her garden so not sure of their direction. Possibly a cold winter here?! Would be great since the winters have been warm the last couple of years!

Melissa

oh and they were all crossing towards the east and south east.

Melissa

I live in southern IL and have seen a lot of all black woolies and the black and orange wollies. Most havebee crossing the roads in our country area. In fact one day on an 8 mile drive we started counting them…a total of 20 of them. On another drive we stopped and saved them off the road have have 8 on a 3 miles road. Wonder what the deal is because last year we didn’t see single one!

Robert

I saw four Woolies about ten feet apart, very small black bands on their rear and very light orange along their lenghts of the front of all four. I live in North Greenbush, NY, North Easterly across the beautiful Hudson River from Albany, NY. The Woolies were all headed in a East-Nortrh -Easterly direction which shows that not only are they an indicator for seasonal weather predictions, they obviously have a sense for a better quality of life. Hopefully they will crawl into the ears of our local politicos and lay their eggs there.

Daniel  age 6,

Today is Christmas. I got a Microscope for Christmas and I was looking for bugs to see them. We found a wooly on our drive way, I went out with my compass to see which way he was going. My compass said south/east. I thought he would die from the cold, so we have him in the house. He is inside my microscope insect holding part now. It has an incubator on it, so we warmed him up. He is very, very furry, big, big fir, and he has 2 blacks and one big orange section in the middle on him. My mom says we can let him go out side as soon as he is ok again. I am not sure if we can let him out side. Because of winter. There is no snow yet, but it is a very sunny day. My mom is looking on the computer to see if he could survive if we let him go back out.

Devie

Just saw a totally black wooly caterpillar in about 4 degrees weather on Dec 22 and today saw a brown wooly one with black tips at each end in 30 degrees weather in western pa.

Jessica

I live in south central MO, and have seen numerous solid black wooly worms around my yard this past month. After spending 3 years in Texas without a drop of snow, im actually hoping for a good harsh winter that will bring my children and I alot of snow to play in!

Marsha

On election day Nov. 4,2008 I found a woolly bear in the road that had a black band in front then a small band of orange and then a small band of black and then a large band of orange then a small band of black at the end. So does that mean that it will be a mild winter. I have never seen one that looked like that before. Usually they are black orange and black only 3 bands.

Ryan

I saw an all black wooly bear on a bike trail today October 21, 2008 in State College, PA. Took a pic of it with my phone. I’ve noticed most of them this fall have been more black than orange.

Michael

Caterpillers are all black in north central Arkansas. Also spoons in persimmon seeds. Gonna be a cold snowey winter. Have fun everyone.

amy

ok…anyone from tx see any caterpillars? I know you northerners are thinking it is ridiculoous to ask, but we can have hard winters too. :o0

Carmin

Persimmon seeds here in Central Missouri all seem to have spoons. But our wooly worms have black tips with black front and back.

Sue

My husband and I opened our garage door to find a huge black wooly worm on our driveway. It was bigger than normal and coal black. No other color on him. We’re in central Ohio

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