What the Woolly Bears are Predicting for Winter in New York
It's my favorite time of the year... the oppressive heat is fading, apple cider donuts are on store shelves, and the black and brown Woolly Bear caterpillars are back with their winter weather predictions.
Woolly Bear Caterpillars in New York
Much like Punxsutawney Phil predicts how soon we'll escape winter and welcome spring, the common folklore in New York looks to Woolly Bear caterpillars to predict exactly how severe the winter months will be. Here's what Hudson Valley Woolly Bears are saying about this year's cold months.
Predicting Winter with Woolly Bear Caterpillars
First off, some rules: using this adorable creature to predict our winter all comes down to their bi-colored fuzz. The general consensus amongst Woolly Bear believers is that the more brown-colored segments a specimen has, the more likely we are to have a mild winter. More black segments on the body, winter is gonna be a doozy. So what's the local prediction?
Woolly Bears in Newburgh, NY
Luckily for us, there were a ton of Woolly Bears in Newburgh, NY this past weekend, and I used every one I found for our science experiment. In his famous (if not informal) research project in the 1940s and 50s, Dr. C. H. Curran determined that a caterpillar with brown segments covering at least one third of their body would predict a mild winter. The caterpillar I found at Chadwick Lake Park (above) seemed to fit that description. Then I found one in my backyard.
Again, the healthy presence of brown may suggest we don't have much to worry about this year. In fact, every Woolly Bear I found this weekend had very similar colorations. But have we cracked the code? Do these black and brown segments really relate to weather? Actually, yes. Here's what I mean.
Do Woolly Bears Really Predict the Weather?
While we would need thousands of caterpillars and decades of research to come up with any real scientific answer, one scientist pointed out something interesting. Entomologist Mike Peters said that the number of brown bands communicates the age of the caterpillar. The age of the Wolly bear is dependent on how quickly spring weather warmed up after winter, so while the brown bands might not predict a future winter, it may tell the story of the previous cold season.
While we still have an entire season to get through before winter hits, it's never too early to prepare. Check out the amazing ice cream shops that will bravely stay open throughout the winter months in the Hudson Valley below, and keep scrolling for some of the most gorgeous nature shots captured the last time the snow fell.