THE WEATHER ACCORDING TO WOOLLY BEARS

Pyrrharctia isabella: Wikimedia

Pyrrharctia isabella: Wikimedia

Woolly bear says: Oil prices are down. Fill the oil tank now.

The Farmer’s Almanac predicts a cold and snowy winter for New England. The National Weather Service predicts a “normal” one. What say you, woolly bears?

Folklore holds that the length of this cute caterpillar’s black and brown segments hint at the coming winter’s length. I can never remember which part–the black ends or the brown middle–means what. Fortunately, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has given some time to the subject.

Says NOAA, “The longer the woolly bear’s black bands, the longer, colder, snowier, and more severe the winter will be.” Dear NOAA, what could possibly be “more severe” than long, cold, and snowy? Is there a dimension of unpleasantness I’m forgetting? Frosty-bity? Wind-burny? Icerageous?

Pyrrharctia_isabella

Grown up Pyrrharctia_isabella. Wikimedia {pd]

Anyway, here’s the true fact: As a woolly bear spends the summer and fall gnawing on your dandelions and clover, it grows, and molts six times. Each time, the new skin has a wider strip of red hairs. Ergo, a woolly bear with long black ends predicts that you’re talking to a kid; a completely red one predicts that you’re looking at a ‘pillar poised on the precipice of pupation.

This puts the woolly bear’s predictive power on a par with that of the Farmer’s Almanac. Also like the Almanac, a woolly bear can survive freezing at -90F. Woolly bear don’t care how long winter is.

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