What Does the Woolly Bear Say?

Updated: Jan 14, 2019



We've put together a thoroughly unscientific prediction of this winter's weather, based on the few woolly bear caterpillars we've 'polled'. Woolly bears are the caterpillar of the Isabella Tiger Moth, and lore has it that the severity of a winter's snow and cold can be predicted by the woolly bear's ratio of brown to black - more black means a severe winter while more brown predicts milder weather. After emerging from an egg in the fall, woolly bear caterpillars actually freeze solid over the winter. Through cryoprotectant tissue properties (biological antifreeze!) woolly bear caterpillars stay alive in their overwintering icy state, to then thaw out and become moths in the warmer spring. While our sample is small (we found three woolly bears willing to talk to us), and we can't vouch for it's accuracy, putting this 'unscientific' predication together actually felt grounded in what we think of as the heart of true scientific inquiry - personal, hands-on experience of and curiosity toward the world around us. Take the kids for a walk and see if you can find some woolly friends. And then ask your kids if they think this winter will be snowy and cold or mild and warm?


Ed Bieber is the Owner/Director of The Nature Place Day Camp. He has a B.A. degree from Rutgers University in Botany, M.S. from Michigan State University in Outdoor Education and New York State Permanent Teaching Certification, N-6. Ed has worked professionally, since 1970, with over 250,000 children (and still counting!), adults and families in the outdoors.

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