Here in Floyd, VA, we are seeing an all-black version of the common
wooly bear caterpillar without the traditional wooly bear stripes. It is completely black from end to end and has a soft
fuzzy coat like a normal wooly bear.
At left is the winter severity legend in pictorial form. Image from the Wooly Bear Festival in Vermillion, OH
According to legend, the severity of the upcoming winter can be judged by examining the pattern of brown and black stripes on woolly bear caterpillars–the larvae of Isabella tiger moths.
If the brown stripe between the two black stripes is thick, the winter will be a mild one. A narrow brown stripe portends a long, cold winter. So, what will happen when there is no brown stripe at all?
This is what a normal Isabella tiger moth wooly bear looks like:
Our black wooly bear was identical to this, but was all black. It did not resemble the caterpillar version of the leopard moth that is pictured below:
The leopard moth larva has a spiky coat, while the common wooly worm has a softer and even coat. We were so startled to see the all-black wooly bear that we did not get a photo. As soon as I see another, I will post the photo here for a comparison.
If you don't believe in wooly bears, then you might consider what is happening to our weather recently. Trees are already turning color and some are dropping their leaves. Nights are cold enough to justify turning on the heat again. Temperatures warm up to the eighties by noon, but drop to the fifties and below at night.
I am not taking any chances. I have been hard at work splitting and stacking firewood in preparation for a long hard winter.
I am already concerned about next year which should be even colder than this one as I have little confidence in the computer simulations that predict a global warming trend.