Woolly Worm predicting harsh winter for NC

Wooly Worm NC Autumn 2009

If you take your Woolly Worm to any of the numerous and popular Woolly Worm festivals ( Banner Elk, NC) around the country this weekend, be prepared to have them rigorously tested for drugs. That is according to last years policy at the Banner Elk, NC event recorded on MTN News. They’ll not have any race entries addicted to drugs.

You’ll also need to have a good set of lungs if entering them in the upstring race. A good puff will encourage them to climb higher and travel more rapidly assuring you the first place trophy. That’s quite the honor if you live in my neck of the woods.

Our woolly worms predict the weather with an 80 percent accuracy. My caterpillar which was captured on my camera just today is telling us that it will be a semi harsh winter. I’m excited about that cause NC has been in a long period of no snow or very little. Last year we had one beautiful big snow in March but that was it.

Winter storm NC March 2009

Joe Bastardi of the weather channel is backing up the woolly worm’s prediction. Joe says the mid-Atlantic states are in for a rough ride as we finish out a fading El Niño. Joe has some interesting predictions for this winter and he’s got an even better track record than our worm.

There are 13 segments on the caterpillars body correlating to the 13 weeks of winter. The size of the light brown middle ring is the determiner.

A large light brownish red area indicates a mild winter but I’m seeing a bit more black this year. The more black you see the harsher the winter. Since the brown can extend to the very ends–my picture above is showing more black than is normal.

My father taught me this little bit of folklore and he learned it from his grandfather who was a farmer. Woolly worms appear in June and then again in Autumn. No one pays much attention in June but when Autumn rolls around it’s big news cause we want to know what the winter will be like.

The woolly worm is the moth Isabella tiger,Pyrrharctia isabella. The larva stage of the moth is called the woolly worm or woolly bear if you live in the northern states. I’m a southern gal so it’s woolly worm to me.

Here is the adult moth Isabella tiger from Wiki:

Isabell Tiger Moth These are some pretty interesting little guys in the caterpillar stage. They are self-medicating insects meaning they eat alkaloid-laden plants which help them fend off parasitic fly larvae.

The moth larva survive the winter in their caterpillar from by producing a cryoprotectant in their tissues. Meaning—they produce antifreeze kinda like pansies do to keep from freezing.

In the Spring, they devour all the grass and weeds they can find and then pupate into an adult moth who will live through the summer.

The setae or bristles of the caterpillar are not poisonous but can cause dermatitis in some people. Setae are their protective shield against predators who find the prickliness undesirable. They will ball up their body when in danger.

It’s a beautiful Autumn day here in NC today–take a look out my front door.

Autumn in NC 2009

How to care for woolly worms should you want one as a pet

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27 comments on “Woolly Worm predicting harsh winter for NC

  1. Thank you for this lovely informative article! The young farm girl at Tractor Supply in Winchester KY told me this last fall. She and the woolly worms were right on track! Our average winters are 20-40 degrees F. We are having days in the teens (a couple lower) and nights in the tens, some a few degrees below.

  2. WHAT DOES A WOOLY WORM MEAN IN THE STATE OF MO. RIGHT NOW PLEASE IF ITS ALL MEAN IF ITS ALL WHITE I HAVE SEEN AT LEAST 3 OF THEN

  3. Pingback: Unreal Bumper Crop of Pollen for NC « Flowergardengirl™

  4. Hey Guys,
    I just found a couple of wooly worms at work. One is a solid orange color and the other is one I have never seen before it is solid yellow. Has anyone out there seen one of these?

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