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      Woolly bear caterpillars... weather forecasters?

      The woolly bear caterpillar, known as an adult as the Isabella tiger moth, is common in North America " including right here in the Tri-States. While they may become motionless if touched or picked up, they do not have venom and are not in any way dangerous.

      Generally, the caterpillar starts off with a band of orange (reddish-brown) in the middle of its body while having black at both ends. As the caterpillar grows and matures, the orange band will then grow towards both ends of the body.

      It is legend or folklore that this famous caterpillar can actually predict what the upcoming winter weather may be like. Is this really possible?

      In the 1940s and 1950s, a scientist named C. H. Curran studied small samples of the caterpillars. After some study, the scientist thought that if the orange bands were taking up more than a third of the caterpillars TM bodies, the winter would be milder than average. More black may signal a ~bear TM of a winter " colder than average. Dr. Curran knew that his sample-sizes of caterpillars were small though, and thus his findings were more or less a means for entertainment.

      So, what TMs really happening with the caterpillar known colloquially as Fuzzy Wuzzy? There may very well be a link between the orange band on the caterpillar and the severity of winter| The real evidence, as pointed to earlier, shows that the amount of black and orange is related to the caterpillar TMs age. That means you could tell when the life cycle began earlier in the year " and this would only give you an idea of what the previous winter may have been like as opposed to what the upcoming winter will look like.

      The caterpillars are still fun, and I think they make for great conversation. I TMve loved chatting with people about them! Believe it or not, some towns even hold annual festivals for the woolly bear. Oil City, Pennsylvania, for example, has a caterpillar named Oil Valley Vick who will predict the winter weather. The town hopes to eventually draw a crowd comparable to Punxsutawney Phil. Happy forecasting, Vick " good luck, little buddy!