What the woolly worm said...

The poll results from around the Tri-State

Weather folklore tells us that the black stripes predict a coldand snowy winter, while the burnt orange stripes represent a mildwinter.

What kind of winter is the woolly worm predicting this year? Weasked you to look in your backyards and parks and find out whatthey were saying for this year's winter.

We had 232 people respond to our Woolly Worm Poll. Here are theresults of what they found.

We had just slightly over 50 percent that reported all black orblack with small orange stripes. Only 14 percent of the woollyworms found were all orange, but that was a little higher than lastyear's 10 percent.

Our poll indicates that only half of our woolly worms said thatwe are going to have a colder and snowier than normal winter.

The poll even had a few white woolly worms. You could call thesethe cousins of the typical black and rust-orange woolly worm.

The white woolly worm is the caterpillar for the Yellow WoollyWorm Moth or the Virginia Tiger Moth. Weather folklore says that ifyou find an all-white woolly worm, you are in store for a snowywinter.

They are typically yellow in color as caterpillars, butoccasionally show up as white. They can look like little whitepuffballs.

Each woolly worm is made up of 13 different sections, which isbelieved to represent the 13 weeks of winter. They have three setsof legs and even though they have small eyes, they make their wayaround mainly by touch.

An interesting fact about woolly worms is their ability tosurvive being frozen in temperatures as low as -90F. Their bodieshave the ability to produce an organic antifreeze of glycerol andother chemicals that protects the interior of their cells inaddition to their bristly hair.

This renders them the ability to be literally frozen in ice andsurvive. Live worms have emerged from a cube of ice to resumenormal activity

So, despite the forecast, the woolly worm will be just fine.When spring returns, it will emerge as an Isabella Tiger Moth.

It is true that as a woolly worm matures in the larvae stage oflife, their coats become less black and more rust-orange or brown.But these changes in coat colors may still be impacted by the typeof weather a region has.

Some scientists feel that temperature levels and moisture in theearly days of a woolly worm's life impacts what color of coat theywill have.

In drier climates, they seem to consistently have wider rustedorange bands, while those in more humid environments boast mainlyblack coats.

We have been in a drought since the end of the summer withrecent rainfall deficits that have been more than 9 inches belownormal. This would tend to lean towards a higher number of woollyworms that were orange or orange with small black stripes.

Compared to last year, two-thirds of the woolly worms were blackor black with orange stripes. There were a few more woolly wormsfound this year that were orange or orange with black strips.

Last year, the woolly worm was right with two-thirds of thewoolly worms predicting a colder and snowier winter.

This year, there is less of a clear-cut prediction. It seemsthat at least parts of our winter will be colder and snowier thannormal but only 50 percent of the woolly worms in our poll arepredicting a colder winter.

It seems that the woolly worms might have a similar forecast tothe National Weather Service's long range forecast. NOAA's longrange winter forecast says that our winter will be active, but ourexact weather will depend on the track of each storm. This means wecould see a little of everything from winter storms to raindepending on how far south or north each storm moves.


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