In early October as we are becoming used to the Fall, it can sometimes not be helped that we think ahead as to what will winter hold for us. And with that fascination, comes a wide variety of speculation some of which comes from the wooly bear caterpillar. The wooly bear, or more precisely the Pyrrharctia Isabella, is a medium-sized, furry reddish orange caterpillar having black stripes of varying widths. The theory, or folklore, is that the wider the black band the more severe the winter.
Typically, Juana and I start spotting these caterpillars as early as August to keep score in the months ahead. Every time a totally black one is spotted, Juana starts to involuntarily to shiver and get out her polartec clothing. When a brown one with the slightest of black bands are found, we are cautiously optimistic that a mild winter will be at hand.
This year, however, neither of us has found a single wooly bear. They can often be spotted lumbering across the driveway or the back patio. They find their way into the garage and onto the foundation of my greenhouse. But this year, nothing. Besides us having a drier summer than normal, it is hard to figure out why the dearth of this prognosticators of winters to come. Perhaps the large temperature swings of the winter that killed off all the buds of the peaches and plums did the same to them.
No one seems to know.
So we watch the leaves make their transformation, mice attempt to take up residency in the basement, and the birds fill their tummies off the feeders. We keep our eyes open for a wooly bear but are coming to the realization that we will be receiving little insight this year about the weather to come.