I was really surprised today when I saw this wooly bear caterpillar scurrying along in the parking lot and on the grass at work.

Photo Chris Popper
Photo Chris Popper

I had to explain to a coworker that they are supposed to be a predictor of the severity and length of winter.

According to the National Weather Service

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.  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

When I enlarge the photo it looks like the Head is larger than the tail, and I count 7 orange/brown segments, which would mean that the winter, on average, will be a bit milder than normal.

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