Have you noticed the all-black wooly bears this year?

WoollybearsdrawWe may be in for a very severe winter if you believe the Farmer's Almanac.

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:

Brownstriped-woolybear-412

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:

Leopard moth catapillar-1119zu

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.

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0 Responses to Have you noticed the all-black wooly bears this year?

  1. Zack says:

    Micro trends vs macro trends. Global warming could make VA colder. Disruption in the gulf stream reduces the amount of warm air from southern regions resulting in longer colder winters.

    I have been predicting an incredibly cold winter up in Boston. We had a phenomenally rainy spring which prevented us from having significant periods of sun which kept us chilly until late July. Hell your cold air is probably just a pressure front from up here.

    With a summer that was only a month long the air and the earth did not warm up long enough to slow down the cooling process this winter. So I expect to see the worst winter in a long time as a result. It will be interesting to see if I am right.

    But even if it is the worst in a century that does not prove anything about global warming as it is only a single localized data point caused by localized inclement conditions in the first place. The interesting question is whether the inclement weather could be a result of changes in the strength of the gulf stream induced by global climate change but really I don’t think our models are good enough to predict new emergent changes in a system that is to complex to model in its entirety.

  2. KingShamus says:

    Hey, the wooly bears don’t lie.

    We;re gonna freeze our buns off this winter. With tons of snow.

    Global warming is a hoax for the rubes.

  3. Amy says:

    My son saw an all black wooly up here on Cape Cod as well. Northern and interior sections of Massachusetts just had their first snow! We just had our second nor’easter of the season! Temperatures have been 15-20 degrees cooler than normal. We had literally no Summer and our Fall has been abnormally cool. We have already had to put our heat on! This is way too soon!

  4. Susan Kelby says:

    We just spotted an ENORMOUS all black wooly bear in SE Ohio.

  5. Madeleine says:

    We just found a nice big fat All black catterpillar down here in kansas city! He’s so cute!

    our summer was more like a normal fall and our fall has been closer to a light winter. We are Gonna Freeze our Buns Off! Good thing I happen to love cold weather…

    Global Warming is a Non-existant =D

  6. Julie says:

    We saw an all black wooly that had a soft furry coat here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Our fall has been unusually warm, in the 70’s last week, and now suddenly turned cold. I would love to have lots of snow but hoping we don’t have an ice storm like we did two years ago.

  7. Kris McCaffrey says:

    Today 2/3/2010 I found a solid black wooly in my driveway. The poor thing was lethargic but alive. I was wondering do they come out in the middle of winter, because this is the first time in my 50 plus years I have seen one this time of year.

  8. J.D. says:

    I am also on Cape Cod. Did see an all black woolly. Sure enough D.C. just had the deepest blizzard on record this weekend 2010. I hope the building regulations can keep up with what we really need to have built and not the contraptions that have been invented in the last 2000 years. We need a very small winter room and the rest of the house saved for summer weather. (remember summer?)What we heat now boils down to saving the indoor plumbing. What is wrong with this picture? Tim O’neil always said, you can get anything done as long as you don’t care who gets credit for it….(and as long as the patent doesn’t get burried!)

  9. michael jennings says:

    Hi, Michael J from larchmont new york(westchester)
    my daughter just found a huge big brownish black really fuzzy thick coat wolly bear,all on color. Or i should add i think its a wolly bear. This is the first place on the internet i found that had made mention of a solid colored wolly.
    I think there amazing and ive found a new interest. My one question is that im concerned that since i am a novice at this,im hoping i have the correct species…I know there can be some poison caterpillars and i woulnt want to make a mistake and have my daughters handling a deadly caterpillar….for now its in a jar…eyes only..thanks Michael

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