Saturday, October 6, 2012

Saturday morning

Wooley Bears

The wooley bears are crossing the road. Every year, in the early Autumn, wooley bears cross the road. I don't know why they do it. I don't even know why they are called wooley bears, for they are not wooley and certainly don't resemble bears. I used to think that "wooley bear" was a name made up by my mother for my childish enjoyment but later I learned that wooley bear is a common term for the brown and reddish banded caterpillar, the larval stage of the Isabella Tiger Moth.

Mother told me that by observing the width of the stripes on the wooley bear, the severity of the coming winter could be foretold. If the reddish band was wide, it meant that the winter would be mild, or maybe it was the other way round. I thought she made that up too, but it turns out she knew what she was talking about, as usual. In 1948, Dr. C.H. Curran, the curator of insects at the American Museum of Natural History in New York began to study wooley bears to try to see if there was any scientific basis for this bit of wooley bear folklore. Over the course of eight years he collected hundreds of wooley bears, measured their bands, and attempted to correlate his findings with the winter weather. The results were inconclusive. Mother could have told him that.

Why do wooley bears cross the road? I don't know, and if you do, don't tell me. We meed a little mystery from time to time and  I would just as soon sit here on a cool October Saturday morning and ponder on it for a while. Mother would say "pay attention; you might learn something."


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