Right now, country roads are being traveled by the Woolly Bear caterpiller, the larval stage of the Isabella tiger moth. Prognosticators from this part of the country have used this little guy for for decades to give a clue to the upcoming winter's weather.
The caterpillar is reddish-brown, with black bands on the head and tail ends. The width of the black bands are what foretell the weather. In fact, our local paper, The Lancaster New Era, ran a tongue-in-cheek story just yesterday, as they do each fall. Caterpillars are gathered from various parts of the state and a consensus is reached. Entomologists from Penn State were presented with a rarity earlier this week - a caterpillar with NO banding. So far, it is the only one.
I've been seeing them everywhere this past week. They cross the roads between fields, and at times it is like a tiny little march. There is a picture (with crude markings of my own lame doing) on the sidebar of a little fellow whom had nestled into the basement doorway.
So, the official prediction for this winter? Another mild winter. From the article in the paper,
"Think twice about buying the little ones sleds for Christmas, no matter how nostalgic you get. Take a picture and post the snowblower on Ebay. Ice fishers would do better to take up indoor shuffleboard.
Last winter we didn't get a decent snow until Feb. 18, and even that was an ugly mess with sleet and ice added in. The first plowable snow will arrive earlier this year - around mid-January - but there will only be three nuisance snows the remainder of the winter.
Expect many of those irritating days in the 40's - too warm to snow, too cold to shed the sweater."
Uh huh! I was just going to say that!