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The Woolly Bear Caterpillar And NJ Winter [PHOTOS]

Woolly Bear Caterpillar…crossing my driveway earlier this week. (Craig Allen photo)

It has been said over the years, that the “woolly bear caterpillar” with its 13 segments of black and brown, is a barometer of the coming winter weather!

The true woolly bear caterpillar is the larval form of the Pyrrharctia isabella, the Isabella Tiger Moth.

Woolly bears, like other caterpillars, hatch from eggs laid by by a female moth, in warm weather.

The fully-grown woolly bear then searches for a warm winter home, like under tree bark, or between rocks or logs. This is why, during cold weather (like now), they are seen crossing roads or sidewalks!

In the spring, they spin cocoons, and transform inside the cocoon, into a moth. And, the cycle begins again.

So, how did this particular caterpillar’s “forecasting” start?

In the fall of 1948, Dr. C. H. Curran, the curator of insects at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, took his wife 40 miles north of the city to “Bear Mountain State Park” to look at woolly bear caterpillars.

Curran collected as many caterpillars as he could in a single day, determining the average number of reddish-brown segments. He then forecast the coming winter weather through a reporter friend at the “New York Herald Tribune.”

Dr. Curran’s experiment, which he continued over the next eight years, attempted to prove a weather ‘rule of thumb.’

According to legend, the wider that middle brown section is (the more brown segments there are), the milder the coming winter will be. So, a narrow brown band is said to predict a harsh winter…

Is there any scientific validity to this rule of thumb?

Dr. Curran knew that his samples were small.  One would have to look at a vast number of caterpillars in any location, over many, many  years, to form any sort of scientific conclusion.

Most scientists discount the folklore of woolly bear predictions as just that: folklore.

Look at the woolly bear (above) that I saw the other day…and form your own conclusion.

Will this evening’s SNOW sway your conclusions??

Have fun!

Me….I’ll talk with the TRUE weather source….Alan Kasper!

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