winter folklore: woolly bear edition

If you know, you know

Weather.gov is honest to god a pretty incredible website.** But -- hands down -- my favorite noteworthy little subpage, tucked gently into the archives for just the special few who google this arcane bit of trivia.... is the page dedicated to: 
Woolly Bear Caterpillar - Winter Predictor Or Not? 

pictured: ALL the wildlife
The story goes, if you want to know what to expect in the coming winter, check in with your resident caterpillars. Specifically, the Woolly Bear caterpillar, who is typically black at head and tail, and orange in the middle.
According to folklore, the amount of black on the woolly bear in autumn varies proportionately with the severity of the coming winter in the locality where the caterpillar is found.  The longer the woolly bear's black bands, the longer, colder, snowier, and more severe the winter will be.  Similarly, the wider the middle brown band is associated with a milder upcoming winter.  The position of the longest dark bands supposedly indicates which part of winter will be coldest or hardest.  If the head end of the caterpillar is dark, the beginning of winter will be severe.  If the tail end is dark, the end of winter will be cold. In addition, the woolly bear caterpillar has 13 segments to its body, which traditional forecasters say correspond to the 13 weeks of winter.

took this pic of an 'all orange' Bear in July 2017
if memory serves me right, this did not foretell a mild winter... lol
as evidenced by my not just one, but two rants on the subject...
Here in Maryland, we grew up understanding this to be nothing less than Accepted Canon -- the sacred principle by which we (and obvi, by "we" I mean me and my sister as small children, obvi) braced ourselves for the coming winter. 

9/12/2021 maryland
So, obviously, it's always something of an Exciting Moment for me when I spot my first Woolly Bear of the season. Which I did so last weekend just outside the feed room shed. 

AND!! It was this full-orange dude, undeniably signaling a mild winter to come! Yessss!!!

(Let's just ignore recent precedent described above, yes?)

9/14/2021 maryland
Except, hrm. Just days later, strolling out to the jump ring astride my favorite OTTB Charles... Well, I happened to spot this absolutely gargantuan be-furred beastie on the fence post.....

ok yea we definitely needed a closer look at this incontrovertible behemoth
Oy. Ok. That's a big Woolly Bear, guys. 

And not a single twinge or tint of rusty orange to be found. Foretelling a longer, snowier, colder, more severe winter ahead. 

9/16/2021 maryla.... wait, jk that's just resident woolly bear shetland stallion TT doin his daily constitutional...
sorry charlie, idk what it means either!
But what does it mean???

I gotta be honest, my heart is 100% set on a mild fall and gentle onset of winter.... Because it's my favorite season and who could deny me my own selfish whims?! But... It's also been a couple years since we had any sort of epically apocalyptical snow storms or deep freezes. 

Apparently we're all just going to have to wait and see, tho, since even our resident denizens the Woolly Bears can't come to a consensus on what to expect, womp. At least they're cute..ish?? 


(**Seriously tho, have you ever scrolled all the way to the bottom and perused all those many, many links?!)


winter folklore: woolly bear edition