The Woolly Bear

While out for a neighborhood walk, a woolly bear caterpillar boldly crossed my path. I stopped to look at it. Its body was black on one quarter of the area of the head. The other three-quarters sported a thick brown coat. I remembered that there was something about the coat of a woolly bear that is supposed to give you a clue on the severity of the upcoming winter weather. But, it has been too long since I heard the details.

So, I web searched. I found straight away that this caterpillar is supposed to have black on both of its ends. One wonders if what I saw was an impostor or a freak of nature. Perhaps he would be faster in a race. Some towns still revere the predictive powers of this caterpillar, and honor the insect with an annual festival. But, of course, a festival will not long hold the interest of a crowd unless there is some action in it. Thus, they hold caterpillar races, and they tell stories about the woolly bear, which is actually the larvae stage of the Isabella Tiger Moth. Did you know that these caterpillars are found as far north as the Arctic, where they freeze (enter a cryogenic state). They thaw out in the spring to eat and fatten up before they turn into moths.

Now, I know you don’t want me to leave out the winter weather predictive powers of “Punxsutawney Phil,” the groundhog. You know how he works. He comes out of his den, or gets dragged out, on February 2 (Groundhog Day), where he will or will not see his own shadow. If he sees it, the groundhog scrambles back into his den because he has predicted six more weeks of harsh winter weather. Of course, this is a trick. If the sun is out when he is dragged out, he will see his shadow. No one has said this, but should Phil cast his shadow upon a woolly bear that wears a narrow brown stripe, we should all go hide in his groundhog den because “snowpocalypse” or “snowmageddon” is coming!

I’ve heard weather guys and gals talk on television about the dew point, an occluded front, and the Tor Con, but when weather gets serious, like when a hurricane comes toward the east coast of the USA, they switch the talk to computer-generated models. Most of them hedge their bets on either the American or the European computer model. So, are we to believe that computers more accurately predict our pending winter weather and that our weather analysts merely read computer-generated data? What happened to the woolly bear? Have meteorologists lost confidence in its winter severity prediction power? I think not. My theory is that every one of those weather experts has one and they consult with their woolly bear before they tell us what the computer said!

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