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Friday, April 10, 2009

Woolly Bear - Six Month Late

woolly bear caterpillar

If you live in the eastern United States you are likely to find this post very boring.

When I opened the pictures I wanted to show you today they aren't in focus. (Note to self: learn more about using the macro setting on the new camera) I can retake those tomorrow, but what to use today?

This is probably the most commonly recognized caterpillar there is, the Woolly Bear or Woolly Worm. Who hasn't had one of these little ones as a "pet?" They are easy to pick up, don't bite, and the hairs are not prickly or toxic. When picked up they curl into a tight ball. If you are patient they will uncurl and crawl across your finger. (Note to self: take a picture of one curled up!)

The reason I say that this caterpillar is six months late is because folk lore has it that you can predict the severity of the winter by the width of its orange stripe. A narrow stripe means a harsh winter and a wide stripe an easy one. But now it's spring. The Woolly Bear has been hibernating in some log or under a rock. Now it will spin a cocoon and emerge as a very dull moth that almost no one recognizes, the Isabella Tiger Moth, Pyrrharctia isabella, later in the summer.

Interestingly enough I did find that a group, the The Original Society of the Friends of the Woolly Bear, has conducted an informal study of the accuracy of the stripe prediction. From 1948 to 1956, and 1988 to the present the group has collected Woolly Bear caterpillars in the fall and made a prediction about the winter. Surprisingly they are about 80% accurate.

That's hugely better than Punxsutawney Phil, the famous groundhog. That famous rodent is only 35% accurate! One scientist says there could be a real basis for connecting the width of the stripe with the winter, however it would be referring to the winter just past, not the coming one. Based on that idea this Woolly one is saying that the winter just past was mild. I think not!

Hike Planning Report
I had to prepare for a meeting I was in charge of this evening. Got nothing done for the hike

Walked 1.5 miles with 33 pounds.

See One Less Army of Worms for some other caterpillars
See The Army Meets a Different Need for what happened to them
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rainfield61 said...

Your post is the second one that I have found caterpillar in today.
I may want to join as the third tonight.

Rick (Ratty) said...

I haven't seen a good fuzzy caterpillar since I got my camera. I've been watching. Hopefully the wide stripe on this one means that spring is here to stay.

Sharkbytes said...

Hi Rainfield- Wow, a caterpillar surge. Actually there are so many of them we'd probably all get the "willies" if we thought about it!

Ratty- Don't know about the stripes, but I've seen several of them moving around quite energetically.

WiseAcre said...

Looks like that one gets the band thing as mixed up as I do. I can never remember what band width goes with which prediction.

I haven't seen any around but it's just warmed up again after a prolonged cold snap. Temps at night are still dipping below freezing.