Sometimes, I feel that we Mainers have many different oldey-timey ways of telling the future. Who says we don't have ESP?! And no, I'm not talking about the sports channel. I'm talking about how a lot of us know all sorts of things, likely taught to us by our grandparents, about how to predict things around us, just by simple observation.

For instance, my grandfather used to say that if you paid attention to the bottoms of clouds in August, that you could tell if it was going to be a big snow year. He said the darker the bottom, the worse the winter would be. Or my grandmother was always ready with an old fashioned saying like, "fog in the hollow, fair day to follow", and other awesome things like that.

Mother Nature gets in on it too. Just a few weeks back, I posted a bit about using cricket chirps to tell what the temperature is. And then I heard someone talking about how Woolly Bear Caterpillars can also help predict the severity of the upcoming winter. Even the National Weather Service has weighed in on the subject. Here's how it's explained on their site:

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.

Woolly Bear Caterpillar Silhouette
Getty Images/iStockphoto

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.

And of course, there's more than one version of how the Woolly Bears predict the winter. One says that the "woollier" the caterpillars are, the colder the winter will be. As though they're building their coat. And another still, says that the direction they tend to crawl in, shows what type of winter it will be. If they're crawling south, they're trying to escape a cold winter. If they are moving north, then it will be a milder winter.

Science would have us believe that there is absolutely no correlation between the severity of winter, and the life of the Woolly Bear Caterpillar. But come on....if people have been using them as an accurate forecaster for all these years, there has to be a shred of truth in there somewhere. Even if that truth is that everyone back then was just a little bit nutty.

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