The Woolly Bear Caterpillar and NJ Winter Weather
I'm out for a walk, and it's not a black cat (pre-Halloween) that crosses my path.
It's one of these...
Come to think of it, I am starting to see lots of these fuzzy guys making like chickens...crossing the road.
What's up with that?
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 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 they are seen crossing New Jersey roads or sidewalks this time of year.
In the spring, they spin cocoons, and transform inside the cocoon, into a moth. And, the cycle begins again.
The title of this fact-finding article grabbed your attention, right?
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 forecasts 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 years, to form any scientific conclusion.
Most scientists discount the folklore of woolly bear predictions as just that: folklore.
Look at my woolly bear photos above...and form your own conclusion.
Then, there's this caterpillar:
My disclaimer: Just remember...my sample is...small.
Me....I'll talk with the TRUE weather source: NJ101.5 Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow.
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