Wooly Worm Report

by Jeanette Levellie

When we moved from L.A. to Paris, Illinois eleven years ago, someone asked me what I thought of the winters here.   Wrapping the third scarf around my neck and adjusting my earmuffs, I said, “I try not to think about them too much.”

Not that spinning off the icy highway into a ditch isn’t my idea of a fun new game.  Or that I don’t enjoy drinking seventeen cups of tea a day from November to March—I always did enjoy that burst of energy a strong cup of tea gives.  I even discovered a brand of long underwear that are made from silk, so you don’t have to buy clothes two sizes larger than usual. That’s always gratifying.

Did you know there is a surefire way to predict winter weather? According to early American folklore, you can forecast the harshness of an upcoming winter by examining the brown band around a wooly worm’s middle. The thinner the brownish red band, the harsher winter will be. 

But I have my own methods.  As we go on a walk up the country lane near our home at Nevins and I spot a wooly worm scooting across the pavement, I’ll note its coloration. If it’s dark brown or black, representing the bare earth, I predict a mild winter with no snow. If it’s orange—a happy, warm color—I maintain the upcoming winter will be warmer than usual. And if the wooly worm is white or tan, I report that winter will be fast and fun, with snowfall only on Christmas Eve.

Scientific? Hardly. Accurate? Rarely. But my overly biased wooly worm reports make us laugh every time. And giggles help us get through the long, freezing months better than gripes.  I imagine even the wooly worms laugh. At me.

Photo credit: flickr.com


  1. You know the best way to predict weather with wooly worms? Follow them back to their lair and see whether they've stocked up on tiny long johns and snuggle socks. ;) Great post!

  2. Beth: You are the brilliant one! Thanks for the tip!


  3. Sigh. Here in Colorado our woolly worms are almost ALL black. Again.

  4. I have never heard of this before. I've always loved looking at them and having them tickle may hand though. :O)

  5. I've heard that the more acorns there are the harder the winter. My live Oak has been "raining" acorns, it's prediciting snow.

  6. interesting theory! I'll have to look for wooly worms:) great post!

  7. You simply refuse to be bored (or boring), don't you, J? I love it.

  8. Niki: This means you will be sipping dark chocolate cocoa in front of your yummy fire! YES!

    Diane; They are kinda tickly, aren't they?

    Sally: Oh dear, I have a hard enough time keeping up with woolies; don't make me read the Oak trees now!

    Melanie: Yes, you will, depending on where you live. We didn't have them in Cali.

    Rhonda: I, like you, am allergic to boredom. Even when I taught government to high schoolers, I tried to make it fun.

  9. Love this scientific method, Jen! I can imagine you in your 3 scarves, carrying a mug of steaming tea - just looking for those wooly worms to make this year's prediction! Your positive outlooks are wonderful! Any snow yet?! Hugs & God bless! :)

  10. Thanks, Maria. No snow here yet, but they are predicting it for next week. The weather people, NOT the wooly worms--they only give me happy, warm reports!

  11. Jen:
    The wooly worms get heavy and dark colored when the winter is going to be cold and snowy. That's how it is in Indiana.
    I don't think I've seen a orange one. :)

  12. Hi Jen -

    LOL! My husband and I came across a wooly worm several years ago. He taught me the mysterious significance of its coloration.

    I was so impressed that it made its way into my first book. I wonder if a wooly worm predicted last year's record snowfall.

    Susan :)

  13. Very interesting method! I'm hoping to find some white or tan wooly worms this year!

  14. Sally; my grandfather, who was very good at predicting the winter, told me that if the squirrels/gophers/chipmunks are not storing away tons of those acorns the snow will not last.

  15. I remember those fuzzy creepy crawlers but haven't seen any in several years so can't count on them for a snow report. My mother used to look at the evergreen trees and say if they were loaded with cones it would be a harsh winter, but I never could verify that as a reliable predictor.

    Meteorologists are telling us it will be a long snowy winter here. Our first snowfall is forecasted for later this week. Yikes!

  16. Quiet: The wooly worms here in IL are different, my dear. They like warm winters.

    Susan R.: Wow, now I should write a children's story and have a ww as a character! Thanks for the idea.

    Susan F.: I hope you do, too, and keep warm by the fire.

    Penguin: Oh goody. I haven't seen one squirrel squirreling away acorns this year.

    Carol: I am allergic to meteorologists. I think they shoot dice to predict the weather.

  17. We have wolly bear caterpillars with fat stripes that go around the short way. We "predict" on these. I wonder if they are the same. Ours are chunky and sort of cute. Anyway, I agree. We should have a light heart about it all.

  18. Nancy; I've never heard them called Wooly bear caterpillars--how cute!


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