Wed 12 Dec 2007
Summary: The ability of banded woolly worms to predict the weather is the basis for a popular festival. Their all-white "cousins" and a host of other insects are also part of the many truths and folklore revolving around the seasons.
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Woolly worms are well-known weather forecasters, especially the striped species. However, their white counterparts and a host of other arthropods can reportedly tell the tales of temperature changes, too. Long before weather forecasters made their announcements based on technology, individuals relied on insects, animals, and nature in general for their predictions. Much of it is lore that goes back centuries and some, indeed, is based in fact.
The Woolly Worm Festival is a standard favorite in the world of weather forecasting. The annual event revolves around the black and brown “banded” woolly worm. Apparently, it’s very simple to make predictions based on this popular worm’s physical appearance. Bolder black bands mean cold; wider brown striping indicates milder weather. If the woolly worm has spiky protrusions, watch for ice. If it’s woollier than normal; better bundle up.
What about the presence of white woolly worms? They, too, seem to have magical powers in weather predictions. Perhaps with an edge over their more popular “cousins” that can merely forecast temperature ranges. While they may be rare in some regions, if they’re spotted, that’s a strong indicator of heavier than average snows for the season. Pair these sightings with all-black woolly bear caterpillars and you may be in for a long, cold spell surrounded by deep snow.
While the woolly bear worms may be the best known and loved of all arthropod predictors, others certainly have their place in folklore.
Ants – Higher and larger mounds mean a colder than normal winter. If they’re rushing back and forth in straight lines, rain is coming. When they go in search of food in random patterns, the weather will be good.
Bees – Nests that are built higher than usual means cold weather is ahead. They also cluster around the hive when stormy weather is approaching.
Crickets – If you need to know the temperature on the spot, count the number of chirps in a 14-second time span, add 40 to that number and you’ll be within one degree. In fact, many insects tend to be more active when it’s warmer, including the sounds they make.
Flies – If they land and bite, a rain is imminent.
Katydids – When they begin their chirping chorus, you can expect the first hard frost in 90 days.
Spiders – Seeing more of them in the fall? That means abnormally cold temperatures for the upcoming winter months.
Spider webs – If they’re flying in the wind, there will be no rain. Some swear by the fact that if a spider puts up a web, the upcoming weather will be fine. If the spider removes it, a storm is on its way.
Termites – They, too, will build taller mounds when facing unseasonable weather.
Of course, many of these tales are debunked by scientific studies. Even our favorite woolly bears may display their bands based on the region in which they live. Some say that those residing in drier climates consistently have wider orange-brown bands while those in more humid environments boast blacker bodies. In general, caterpillars in the larval stage may be darker if they live in colder, damp habitats.
As far as spiders and their nest-building habits go, experts insist these arachnids go about their web-construction business regardless of the weather. However, many creatures, including worms and caterpillars may exhibit odd behavior when the barometric pressure is low. With a storm approaching, they often become more active and go in a frenzied search for shelter.
In a final analysis, the woolly bear worm and many other types of nature’s weather predictors may be just as accurate as any official forecasts.