As summer fades into autumn, the Hudson Valley begins to prepare for colder weather. From science to folklore, there's numerous ways to predict the temperatures ahead, and one of the Hudson Valley's most famous insects have begun to make their claim.

Woolly Bear Caterpillars in New York

Much like Punxsutawney Phil predicts how soon we'll escape winter and welcome spring, the common legend in New York looks to Woolly Bear caterpillars to foresee exactly how severe the winter months will be. Here's what they're saying about this year's cold months.

Jonah/TSM
A Woolly Bear caterpillar in Newburgh, NY (Jonah/TSM)
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Predicting Winter with Woolly Bear Caterpillars

First, some rules: using this adorable creature to predict our winter all comes down to their bi-colored fuzz. The general consensus amongst Woolly Bear believers is that the the longer the brown-colored segment on a specimen is, the more likely we are to have a mild winter. More black segments on the body conversely means that winter is going to be a doozy. So what's the local prediction?

A Woolly Bear caterpillar found in 2022 (Jonah/TSM)
A Woolly Bear caterpillar found in 2022 (Jonah/TSM)
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Woolly Bears Caterpillars in 2022 vs. 2023

While using Woolly Bears to forecast weather isn't an exact science (or a science at all), it's very interesting to note that the Woolly Bear coloration in 2023 varies greatly from the caterpillars in 2022 (below). While this very informal research was only done in my 1/2 acre yard in Newburgh, NY, I'm still willing to put my faith in these fuzzy buddies.

Jonah/TSM
Jonah/TSM
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Woolly Bear Caterpillar Weather Prediction for New York in 2023

In the photo above, the Woolly Bear I spotted in 2022 (left) has far less brown on its body than the Woolly Bear I found this morning in my driveway (right). If lore is to be believed, this means that we will suffer far less from winter weather this year than we did 12 months ago. But is any of this actually true? Well, yes... sort of.

Woolly Bear caterpillars might actually be better at reflecting last year's weather (Jonah/TSM)
Woolly Bear caterpillars might actually be better at reflecting last year's weather (Jonah/TSM)
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Do Woolly Bears Really Predict the Weather?

While we would need thousands of caterpillars and decades of research to come up with any real scientific answer, one scientist pointed out something interesting. Entomologist Mike Peters said that the number of brown bands communicates the age of the caterpillar. The age of the Woolly bear is dependent on how quickly spring weather warmed up after winter, so while the brown bands might not predict a future winter, it may tell the story of the previous cold season.

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We still have an entire autumn to get through before winter hits, but it's never too early to prepare. Check out the amazing ice cream shops that will bravely stay open throughout the colder months in the Hudson Valley below, and keep scrolling for some local Airbnbs that are perfectly suited for a winter getaway if our caterpillar friends are wrong about the weather.

10 Hudson Valley Ice Cream Shops Still Open in the Middle of Winter

Here are the brave ice cream shops in the Hudson Valley that stay open all year... even in the cold months of winter

Ski In & Out of these 5 Hudson Valley Airbnbs

Hudson Valley Airbnbs with the ultimate amenity!

Gallery Credit: Jonah

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