Wooly Worm Weather

Tuesday, October 19, 2010 - 3:33pm

Do caterpillars really predict how harsh winter weather will be?

Wooly worm caterpillars are out in force in Virginia.

Eric Day with the Department of Entomology at Virginia Tech says it's normal to see them at this time of year.

"Right now, they're finished feeding and they're moving to a place where they can spend the winter," said Day.

Just seeing them, some believe is an omen that the winter is going to be bad.

"My grandma used to say that if you see them around in early fall and late summer it would predict a bad winter," says Roanoke resident Karen Garrett.

Others think it's the width of the bands that tells the forecast.

So the saying goes, the more black on the caterpillar the harsher the winter.

Some will even go as far as to believe that the black start to the caterpillar means a harsh start to winter, the brown center means a mild center to the season, and the black at the end means a severe end to the season.

Whether you believe this or not, some say they've been right in the past.

"Last year I saw a lot of them and the year before I didn't see them, or the year before I didn't see them," Karen says.

Day says the width of the brown band is due to how much the worm eats.

"If you can find one that had the perfect summer, had the right amount of food, it's going to be almost all red and virtually no black," he explains.

Some may link that with the weather.

"You can look at it and say maybe if we had a cold summer, not much food for these things then maybe it indicates a cold winter. But my crystal ball is broken," Day says.

If the folklore holds true, the worms in our area are predicting an average winter for Virginia.

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