Tuesday, October 11, 2005

wooly bears

Over the past month or so, if you have been, per chance, driving behind me on the way somewhere, you may have noticed that I swerve quite a bit. No, I'm not a bad driver, nor have I been drinking. I swerve to avoid hitting wooly bears.

On the back roads around my house, on particulary warm and sunny days in September and October, these little guys are crossing the road from one field to another by the hundreds. I figure one trip to get the paper I could save 50 or so by swerving to avoid them. They hustle too, so it doesn't take them long to cross. I also rescue them from spider webs and remove them from the garage. It just seems to me bad kharma to not assist a wooly bear. Everybody knows the old time tale that wooly bears can tell you how harsh a winter it will be. The broader the brown band in the center, the milder the winter. I suppose we'll be having a harsh winter, because the wooly bears that I've been seeing hardly have a central brown band. A few years ago, a scientist, for fun, decided to test this old adage and capture a whole mess of wooly bears, average the width of the brown band, and then compare it with the average temperature and average snow fall that occurred the following winter. Suprisingly, he acheived 80% accuracy. Where are they hustling to? Are they on their way to the Wooly Bear Festival, held every year in Banner Elk, NC? No, silly. They are seeking refuge in a rock crevice or log where they can spin their brown, fuzzy cocoon and turn into this:

Pyrrharctia isabella, or the Isabella Tiger Moth. I think this is a fairly small moth and one that doesn't attract too much attention. There must be a lot of them though, cause there sure are a lot of wooly bears on the road.


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