Relax, Northeast America, a mild winter is on the way. I have it on good authority.
I was sitting on the patio after cutting the grass for the last time this year when I noticed my cat studying something intently. I looked down at her feet and there was one of those brown-and-black “wooly bear” caterpillars crawling across the concrete. Fleck didn’t bother it, probably because she knew it wouldn’t taste good, but she was interested. So was I.
I recalled hearing that these little guys are predictors of weather (caterpillars, not cats). So, being the lazy person I am, I didn’t get up and go in the house and get on the computer. I Googled “wooly bear caterpillars, weather” on my phone and read the first site on the list. It said just what I wanted to believe, so I investigated no further. (The site was rife with misspellings and usage abusage, but I’m prepared to be broad-minded for the sake of unscientific folklore.)
The key is the ratio of black to brown on their bodies. Seems that the less black the little critters sport, the milder the winter will be. More black means more cold and snow. I had heard that the colors were crucial, but couldn’t recall what the black and brown meant specifically. This guy had only a small band of black at its head. The rest was a reassuring reddish-brown.
I learned something else, though, that I had never heard. The direction the caterpillar is traveling has a bearing on the severity of the coming winter season. If it’s moving north, the winter will be mild. But if the little guy is heading south, break out the galoshes and snow shovels. You’ll be pleased to know that my little visitor was inching due north. (My source made no mention of what it meant if the insect was traveling east or west. Presumably, it’s irrelevant.)
These caterpillars characteristically appear in both fall and spring, but only farmers pay any attention to them in the latter season. Oh, and cats.