I stepped outside this morning to see the namesake for this blog curled up on a paving stone in front of my door. Seeing a wooly bear caterpillar now, in late August, is no big surprise. From now through October, these orange-and-black, 1.2-inch-long caterpillars, the immature form of an Isabella moth, are fairly active.
But this wooly bear was different. According to legend, the length of the black mid-section of a wooly bear, when compared to the orange front and back ends, indicate the length and/or severity of the coming winter. If we are to believe this insect, then winter 2011/2012 will come in like a lamb and go out like a lamb. The moth had no trace of black.
Do I believe the tradition of the wooly bear? Of course not. All the same, such fanciful stories are often rooted in at least a modicum of truth. Is it possible that the wooly bear really can, perhaps in some small way, predict the coming season? I just don’t know. But if the wooly bear on my front walkway is telling the truth, snowmobile, snow shovel and insulated boot sales will probably hit an all-time low this winter.
Other weather and climate traditions are based upon averages. For instance, old-time wisdom holds that when goldenrod (the same goes for Joy-Pye weed) blooms, the first frost of the season is only six weeks away. Well, since goldenrod blooms in early August, and the first frost often arrives around the second week of September, generally speaking, we can see how legend was interwoven with fact.
The same is true for Groundhog Day, or Candlemas Day, an old-time church holiday. Jump ahead six weeks from Groundhog Day and guess what happens? Spring arrives.
But getting back to the all-orange wooly bear. It does puzzle me. As per what happens this winter, we will just have to wait and see.