The Woolly Myth Or Legend

Can The Woolly Bear Really Predict The Coming Winter?

February 13, 2023

Here is a variety of Woolly Bears patterns varying in colored segments. Courtesy of Google Images.

As the brisk air wip’s through your coats have you ever noticed a black and copper colored caterpillar

slowly crossing your driveway of steps? That caterpillar is called a Woolly Bear. There is a legend that

the woolly bear can predict the winter weather to come. The question is, do they truly know what is to come for our future days off from school or is it all a myth that has been passed down for generations?

According to the Folklore, the woolly bear can predict the coming weather depending upon the segments of colors on the caterpillar. The amount of black bands tells there are colder, snowy winters ahead.  And the copper band predicts there is a sunny spring coming around the corner.

Here are some Woolly Bear predictions for upcoming weather. Courtesy of Google Images.

The woolly bear has 13 segments that will determine the outcome of the winter. Each segment will represent a week of winter, the copper segment represents a mild week and the black represents a harsh week. When looking at the caterpillar, if the head has more than the beginning of winter it will be harsh. If the back has more, the end of winter will be the harshest. The segments are not the only factor to the upcoming weather, the thickness of their hairs can indicate the temperature. If the hairs are more dense then the winter will be colder, if the hair is sparse the winter is mild.

But do their colors actually determine the coming winter? Or is it just a legend?

A Woolly Bear with 5 copper segments and 6 black segments. Courtesy of Google Images.

Dr. Howard Curran was the curator of insects and spiders at New York’s American Museum of Natural History, in 1948 he decides to do a small study to determine if the woolly could actually predict the weather. He looked at the museums collection of Woolly Bear Caterpillars and noted they all had narrow bands. Comparing the caterpillars to the winters, they matched up indicating there was big snow and ice storms. But later on scientists tested on other factors that could contribute to the  change of their color. Scientists found that their canes could be determined by their age, species, feeding habits, location, and their molting cycles. 

Whether or not the woolly bear is just a myth or a legend, it is still fun to try and predict the outcome of the coming season.

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