Related: 8 Gardening Tasks You Should Do This Winter
Supposedly, the longer the reddish brown band, the milder winter will be; while longer black bands mean bitter cold and lots of snow are on their way. But is this tale of old really true?
Turns out, those stripes do tell you something about the woolly bear’s environment, but probably not about future weather. According to the National Weather Service, the caterpillar’s coloring is based, in large part, on how long the caterpillar has been feeding. The better the growing season, the bigger the caterpillar will grow, which results in larger black bands and a narrower reddish brown band. Meaning, the coloration is more of a recap of the previous season, not an indicator of the one to come.
Related: 6 Ways To Embrace Hygge, The Danish Secret To Staying Happy During Winter
Needless to say, you shouldn't put too much faith in this as a weather-predicting tool, but don’t discount it as a potentially fun family activity. (Another fun idea: decorating an edible holiday tree for your backyard birds.)
If woolly bears are already hibernating in your area, you’ll have a chance to spot them again in spring, when they resume eating until pupating in a cocoon and emerging as adult moths two weeks later.
Oh, and don’t worry about them ruining your garden either—they are not one of the 15 worst garden pests. In fact, they can actually be an asset, as they eat mostly weeds, including dandelion, clover, and grasses, and generally will not harm your ornamentals or vegetables.