The size positioning of the brown and black bands on these woolly bear caterpillars can help predict winter weather. (Bigstock)

Officials of the nation’s second-oldest almanac say the markings on woolly bear caterpillars suggest a relatively mild winter in the Mid-Atlantic region.

The Hagerstown Town and Country Almanack announced the results Monday of its annual woolly bear contest. Area children collected 274 of the brown-and-black caterpillars for judging and analysis.

Business Manager Jerry Spessard says the caterpillars had black bands in front that were generally wider than their black rear bands. He says folklore suggests that those markings indicate a mild early winter, possibly turning colder in the second half of the season.

The woolly bear forecast, which has been made for more than 30 years, conflicts with the almanac’s official prediction of a cold, snowy winter.

The contest offers prizes to owners of the cuddliest and biggest woolly bears. Officials promise that all entries are returned unharmed to their natural habitat after judging.

Staff and wire reports