Woollybear caterpillars predict that the coming winter may be rather severe; at least that was the verdict of the dozen I checked.
Larva of the yellow tiger moth, this caterpillar is black on each end with a band of orange-red in the middle. If you pick up one of them, it will curl into a tight ball of orange and black fuzz.
If black covers most of the caterpillar, the winter is expected to be severe, but if orange predominates, a mild winter can be anticipated, according to the legend.
The woollybear can be seen scurrying across country roads at this time of the year. The ones I checked were on Route 13 between Crisfield and Princess Anne, on the Eastern Shore.
The orange band on all of them was quite narrow.
No one knows for sure whether this caterpillar can be relied upon for an accurate prediction. A few studies by the American Museum of Natural History indicated there might be a correlation.
Meanwhile, on another insect front, yellowjackets are dangerous at this time of the year. During the summer their primary food is insects, but now they are attracted to fruits, sweets and meat. They infest gardens, cookout and picnic grounds and are easily provoked. Their sting not only hurts but can be serious for anyone allegic to wasp venom.
Yellowjackets have black and yellow markings on the abdomen with triangular areas of black and yellow. They have a yellow face, while the honeybee's face is black.
Do not swat or otherwise fight yellowjackets or other bees and wasps that happen to be buzzing around you. They will usually go away if left alone. If not, walk under a shelter and the insect will not follow.
When working in an area where there may be yellowjackets, avoid wearing bright colors, hair sprays or perfumes, or taking food outside during the fall.
If you are stung by several yellowjackets, honeybees or wasps, it is advisable to see your doctor right away. Even if the stings appear to go away, complications can occur a day or two later.