How the Woolly Bear Became "Famous"
- In the fall of 1948, Dr. C. H. Curran, 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.
- Dr. Curran collected as many caterpillars as he could in a day, determined the average number of reddish-brown segments, and 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 scientifically a weather rule of thumb that was as old as the hills around Bear Mountain. The resulting publicity made the woolly bear the most recognizable caterpillar in North America.
- ~~the Old Farmers Almanac
I even cared what winter would be like,
When my Father found the first wooly bear of the season he would study it for a few minutes and make his prediction for the winter ahead.
We would pick them up and lovingly carry them around, but they didn't feel wooly as much as they felt like the bristles of hair brush. And when we were done we would put them somewhere where they wouldn't get stepped on. Little wooly bear is actually the caterpillar of the nondescript Isabella tiger moth (Pyrrharctia isabella,) who hatched during the summer and is now
looking for a sheltered place, to spend the winter before emerging in the spring to spin it's fuzzy cocoon and repeat the cycle of life.
Perhaps this inky little fellow isn't a wooly bear but if he were it would signify and extremely bad winter. the wooly bears body is divided into thirteen segments and and it is the number of brown segments, the more brown segment the warmer the winter that matter most. My Father always said you could tell if Fall would come early or Spring would come late by the length of the black bands on the head and tail...but i still can't tell the head from the tail. Unless little wooly bear is moving.
Mike Peters, an entomologist at the University of Massachusetts, doesn't disagree, but he says there could, in fact, be a link between winter severity and the brown band of a woolly bear caterpillar. "There's evidence," he says, "that the number of brown hairs has to do with the age of the caterpillar—in other words, how late it got going in the spring. The [band] does say something about a heavy winter or an early spring. The only thing is . . . it's telling you about the previous year
~~The Old Farmers Almanac
This little wooly bear definitely says "mild winter"
Until recently I thought that the wooly bear was a local idea but the citizens of Banner Elk North Carolina hold a "Wooly Worm Festival" each October complete with a wooly worm/bear race and an official winter prediction made by the former mayor.
At Bear Mountain State park the annual counts have continue, but are not a serious scientific inquiry.
It has been more than thirty years since The Original Society of the Friends of the Wooly Bear. Founded by Curran, his wife and a group of friends last met. they would take to the Autumn woods and search for caterpillars and enjoy being out of the city for awhile. I wonder, was it really about predicting the weather or was it about appreciating something grand.