Saturday, November 15, 2014

Woolly Bear

Or, Science From Your Bicycle Seat. . . Sorta. . .

As I'm out on my bike during the fall months, one of the more common sights I encounter is a woolly-bear caterpillar wriggling across the road as I roll by.  I have no idea why the caterpillars like wriggling across the pavement; seems like a kind of death-wish to me.  But then, possums are vertebrates and mammals, and I see lots of them along the side of the road, also, but usually in a more, um, deceased configuration.  So, brain-mass-for-brain-mass, maybe the woolly-bear caterpillar is actually smarter than the possum, since most of the caterpillars I see are still, you know, actively wriggling.

Now, some of you will know that there is a folk-legend associated with the woolly worms, as to predicting the harshness of the coming winter (and if you didn't know that before now, you're welcome).  The woolly-bear features prominently in the Old Farmer's Almanac's winter prognostications.  The legend goes that, the more dark bands on the 'typical' woolly-bear, the harsher the coming winter stands to be (on the theory, I suppose, that the darker bands will absorb more heat, from the scarce amount that's available).  Just for totally anecdotal purposes, last fall it was not uncommon to see completely-black woolly-bears, which portended a hard winter.  And so it was.  Some years ago, I recall seeing several woolly-bears that were all-brown, or even orange, which indicated a particularly mild winter in the offing, and so it was.  The actual scientific basis for such predictions is, uh, a matter of some controversy, but there you have it; a peek behind the curtain at the Old Farmer's Almanac.

And in case anybody is wondering, this fall, the woolly-bears I've seen have been pretty nominally-colored, with about the middle third of them brown, and black on the ends.  So, at least here in Michigan, that would portend a pretty normal winter, neither harsher nor milder than usual.  In case, you know, you were wondering.  Just remember, you heard it here first. . .


On a related front, I got in 25 miles on my bike yesterday (with temps in the mid-30s and a few very scattered snow flakes), bringing my total for the year to 985.  Just need to find 15 more miles before winter settles in for the duration. . .

This morning, there's a light dusting of snow on the ground.  It wouldn't be enough to keep me from riding, especially with 1000 miles looming so close.  But today is Opening Day of Firearm Deer Season in Michigan, and the light dusting of snow will be a boon to the hunters.  And those hunters are part of the reason I decided to ride yesterday, and not today.  And also why I wear a blaze-orange hoodie on my rides in November. . .

7M's football team won their third-round playoff game Friday night, 49-21.  They were behind, 14-12, just a minute before halftime, so the game was closer than the score might seem to indicate.  This win puts them in the Division 5 state semi-finals; one more win, and they get to play in the dome in Detroit.  Exciting times for those young men, for sure. . .


  1. I saw a lot of wooly bears on the towpath this fall, and like yours, they had equal amounts of the black and brown/orange. One of the ancient Cleveland weathermen is famous for his Wooly Bear Festival.....parade and whatnot.

    We were blasted with lake effect snow yesterday....about 4 inches. Makes me worried, despite the caterpillars prediction.

    Woot for 7M!

    1. That's what we need - a Woolly-Bear Festival!

      And, four inches of lake-effect. . . in mid-November. . . I understand your concern. . .

  2. So, at least here in Michigan, that would portend a pretty normal winter, neither harsher nor milder than usual.

    So it's gonna be normal, eh? My ex-father-in-law, he of Harbor Beach, used to describe Michigan's four seasons as "three winters and one season of bad sledding." ;-)

    Grats to 7M! All the way, baby... ALL the way!

    1. Oh, yeah, there are multiple variants of that 'Michigan Winter' joke. I think my favorite goes like, "Nine months of Winter, and three months of Road Construction."

      All four of the semi-finalists in 7M's division are undefeated. So three of 'em are gonna lose their first game (and end their season with that first loss) over the next couple weekends. . .

  3. Yeah, our woolys are about the same. I watched 'em for over a decade and their as accurate as the Old Farmer's Almanac, not to be confused with the Farmer's Almanac, which is more accurate than the 'professionals' at between 50-60% whereas the Farmer's Almanac runs about 40-45% accurate and the pros (NOAA) runs about 35% accurate. Anyhow, I believe the Old FA said it would be a bit harsher than whatever normal is.

    Good luck to all.

    Hunting this year is a bit sparse in the Empire State, in case you wondered.

    And congrats on the footballity, here's hoping it goes long.

    1. Wow. . . I never would've imagined that someone might've studied the caterpillars in even more depth than I have. . . ;)

      Don't know about New York, but the Michigan deer herd has been in serious need of thinning for several years now. I just narrowly missed an attempted collocation with one on my way in to work yesterday. . .

      How much of the 8 feet in Buffalo made its way to you? 8 feet. In one snowfall. Blows my mind. . .

      Football (at least, 7M's team) has at most another week to run; we're hoping for happy things, but so are three other teams in our division. . .

  4. Not the 'pillars, I keep up on the professional guessers ;-)

    Our deer are out of control but with the anti-hunting, anti animal control low-brain-function zealots many hunters have given up. Near every year we set some record for fewest hunting licenses and with fewer folks out there the deer have more places to hide when we hit the woods. Which means more deer survive and over-run more areas. Don't get me started as this is a liberal mess.

    Thankfully we got none of that, just an unrelated dusting. We get some lake effect now and then but Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse areas are the epi-centers. We do have friends in Buffalo but both families were just outside the danger zone and saw a paltry foot or so.

    1. Well, deer are people too, y'know. . .