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Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 10/23/2009

Woolly worm makes winter forecast

* Which weekend day will be nicer? Full Forecast | CWG photo contest *

Move over, Punxatawny Phil. Make way for Wilbur -- the winner of this year's Woolly Worm race at the 32nd Annual Woolly Worm Festival in Banner Elk, N.C. Wilbur climbed a three-foot string of nylon faster than more than 1,600 other caterpillar competitors this past weekend -- all to win the chance to predict this winter's weather, not to mention a $1,000 prize.

The woolly bear caterpillar is technically not a worm, but a larva of the Isabella tiger moth (Pyrrharctia isabella). According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, the larva "has the reputation of being able to forecast the coming winter weather." Legend has it that the wider the middle brown segment of the woolly bear's bristly black-and-brown striped body, the milder the coming winter, and that each of the caterpillar's 13 stripes represent the forecast for the 13 weeks of winter.

Science has not yet proven this folk tale (or similar ones such as those noted in a recent post by CWG's Jason Samenow) to be true, but thousands gather at the festival every year to celebrate the idea that it might just be.

Here is Wilbur's winter weather outlook:

- Week 1 - Flurries
- Week 2 - Cold With Flurries
- Week 3 - Snow
- Week 4 - Flurries
- Week 5 - Cold
- Week 6 - Cold
- Week 7 - Cold
- Week 8 - Light Flurries
- Week 9 - Below Average Cold
- Week 10 - Below Average Cold
- Week 11 - Snow
- Week 12 - Flurries
- Week 13 - Flurries

As a snow lover, I'm willing to keep my hopes up that Wilbur is right (if it's cold and snowy in North Carolina it's got to be rather wintry in D.C. too, right?), despite the false message of a severe winter given by local squirrels last year.

Do you believe Wilbur?

To see what a D.C. area woolly bear caterpillar looks like this season, check out this photo by Capital Weather Gang reader spgass1 ... just remember, no two caterpillars are alike.

By  |  10:45 AM ET, 10/23/2009

Categories:  Nature, Nature

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