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10/31/2016

We Are Getting Pictures Of Wide, Brown-Banded Woolly Worms! What Does This Mean For Winter?

It's that time of the year when people start talking about the infamous woolly worm! As you know, a lot of people use the color and pattern of the woolly worm as a predictor for winter weather. Ronda Davis recently sent us this picture from Hillview, KY that shows a wide, brown-banded woolly worm...

Ronda Davis Hillview, KY

Jennifer Green recently found this nearly all brown woolly worm in Mt. Washington, KY...

Jennifer Green Mt. Washington

Shirley Brown came across this wide, brown-banded woolly worm in Wolf Creek, KY...

Shirley Brown Wolf Creek

Finally, Yvonne Merideth captured ANOTHER wide, brown-banded woolly worm...

Yvonne Merideth

Woolly Worm ... Superstition Or Accurate Predictor Of Winter?

Let's start by looking at what a wolly worm is. The woolly worm is actually the tiger moths in the larva stage. The technical name for the woolly worm is Pyrrharctia Isabella. In the late summer / fall these woolly worms start to appear more and more. In case you didn't know, folklore says that thin brown bands on the woolly worms means a harsh winter is coming, wider brown banded woolly worms mean a mild winter,  nearly black woolly worms means a severe winter is coming, and finally the very light brown or white woolly worms mean a snowy winter according to the folklore.

The question remains... can the woolly worm accurately predict winter? There actually was research done in the 1950s for 8 years by Dr. C.H. Curran. At the time, Dr. Curran was the curator of insects at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Dr. Curran found that generally the wider the brown segments on the woolly worm the more mild the winter would be. I think you can see where the folklore was born. Since then, there have been independent tests done and most say the woolly worms are about as accurate at predicting the winter as flipping a coin.

Video Courtesy: Old Farmer's Almanac

In reality, the woolly worm can tell something about the weather, but only the winter past. To understand, we need to look a little more into how woolly worms grow. As the woolly worm grows through spring, they molt which means they shed their skin. Every time they shed their skin, more brown bands can occur. Basically it appears the more brown bands a woolly worm has can be an indicator of the age of each woolly worm or when it started to grow in the prior spring. Entomologist Mike Peters from UMASS says specifically that the colored bands on a woolly worm are "telling you about the previous year('s)" winter, not the upcoming winter.

The bottom line is the woolly worm is folklore and most scientists agree there is no correlation between the brown banding of the woolly worm and the upcoming winter. However, if you do believe in the woolly worm forecast you should prepare for a mild winter with the possibility of wintry episodes!

 

-Rick DeLuca

Rick

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I have a ton of solid black ones around my house in Jeffersonville.

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