Winter Woolies

I went looking for a wooly bear caterpillar. Folklore has it that the bands on this black and brown caterpillar predicts the severity of the winter. I can usually find one under fallen leaves in my garden, but this morning I came up empty handed. So, how else might I look into the future? The goats are also wooly bears.

pip coat


Everyday I go out and give the goaties a good scratching. I can feel and see that their undercoat has come in, and it’s thick.

caper back


But, that’s what they’re like every winter, whether it’s a deep freeze like last year, or not. So, perhaps the horses can help me foretell the future?

Tonka is as sleek and shiny as ever. His hair is longer, but he’s far from a wooly bear.

Tonka's coat


So, I looked at Maggie’s beautiful steel grey coat. It, too, is long but not thick.

Maggie's coat


The official weather forecast is for a milder winter than usual here in southern New England. As always, we’ll just have to wait and see. Insulated boots are at the back door, blankets hang on rungs at the stable. The goats don’t care what comes their way, as long as I’m there, every morning, to give them scratches.


  1. i always check the little wooly bears. i can’t verify that they ‘tell’ the truth but this year they are all ‘saying’ that it will be a most average fall, winter, then spring.
    now if that sounds strange, it does happen that if you watch carefully and maybe e ven write it down so you’ll remember what they ‘said’ you might find – as i have – that they do seem to forecast at least the length of the seasons.
    this is in s.w.wisconsin, our winter might be different than yours, – i wouldn’t think the goats would know this – you’d better go look for a caterpillar! and let us know!
    thanks for your column, teri!

  2. I did find a lot of solid black ones last year. And it was nasty down here. But like you, I haven’t found any. Not that I went looking yet, but there are usually a fair number around my porch. Huh. It would be nice to have a mild winter this year. Unfortunately, mild winters usually mean buggy summers around here. *sigh*

  3. I’ve been wondering about woolly caterpillars since I saw one in NY last winter. In the middle of December there’s a woolly caterpillar climbing up the woodpile. I never would have thought they’d be out and about when there’s snow on the ground!
    I can’t recall whether the little guy had stripes or not. Wasn’t last year a mild winter but a cold spring?

    • I’m hoping there’s something to it; my cat Alice has a wonderful fluffy winter coat this year. Even her pal Gorgo, who’s usually pretty sleek even in the winter, looks a bit thicker than usual.

    • Around here last winter brought the brutal polar vortex. Bitter, bitter cold, and then a late frost in the springtime that killed blossoms. We’re hoping that won’t be repeated!

  4. I have seen more wooly bears this year then I have in a long time! I do not know the meaning of their color for weather forecasts but they have large brown section and small black bands on each end what will that mean for winter?

  5. The wooly type caterpillars I’ve seen in CA have all been black and our winters are mild so the lore doesn’t work here. But my cat is getting very furry and that means that we will have a cold (for us) and rainy winter…I hope.

  6. I was lucky enough to see two woolie bear catapillers this year.I remember both my two goats and my pony would get a very thick coat. I could tell how soon winter would get here because they would start growing early, their thick coats.So yes, animals usually tell you how long hard etc that winter will be.Sorry, i didn’t have a camera to take photos of the furry guys?