"Niko" the Woolly Worm says it’s going to snowy!


Saturday was almost a "Chamber of Commerce" kind of day all across the High Country. Friday night was cold but recent standards. We were out watching a youth soccer match over at the industrial fields in Boone at about 7pm and it was cold enough to have people scampering for any additional clothing they could find! Actually my wife and some friends made a quick pitstop to Wal-Mart and picked up some additional layers just to make the evening tolerable. It was the topic of the evening as everyone was commenting on how cold it was. However, this is what we were SUPPOSED to be experiencing in mid-October and the colder temps made for a perfect recipe for the fall festivals across the region.

More fall color popped out literally overnight and Saturday was absolutely beautiful. Sunny skies and brisk winds made for a chilly day at the Valle Fair in Valle Crucis and at the 28th annual Woolly Worm Festival in Banner Elk.

Near record crowds bombed the High Country this weekend as both popular festivals were in full force, the Ghost Train is at Tweetsie and Appalachian State was hosting Georgia Southern in Southern Conference football action. Mix in a pretty strong crowd of leaf-gawkers and this was one busy place to be over the weekend.

The GREAT news is that EVERYONE was a WINNER this weekend. 19th ranked Appalachian State handily defeated 16th ranked Georgia Southern 24-7, our youth soccer team easily won 3-1, the Fall leaf gawkers got some phenomenal weather and lots of color to view…and the winning worm, "Niko" was great choice as he showed lots of black.

Black is not only the color of choice for the winning Appalachian State Mountaineers…it’s the favorite color for Winter prognosticating. Black on a Woolly Worm, means WHITE on the ground in the mountains. At least according to local folklore. Local Woolly Worm "readers" say that it is the COLOR of the bands that relate to what kind of winter we’ll have.

We did a little investigating and MAYBE our local guys have been reading this darn thing wrong all these years! According to entomologist, I. Reedworms Better, he states the following:

"Careful observation of these short, fuzzy caterpillars in the fall supposedly can tell you what kind of weather the coming winter will hold.

The woolly worms of winter weather forecasting fame are black at each end with a reddish brown band in the middle."

So Dr. Betters, you’re saying that MOST every worm has the same coloration?

"Yes, there are some anomalies, but most every woolly worm has the same band markings. If you out 1000 worms in a box together you’ll note that only a few will have different markings."

Dr. Betters, we REMEMBER the winning worm of last year and that darn thing was almost light brown from one end to the other. You’re saying that was a fluke?

"Yes, just bum luck really."

So HOW SHOULD our guys be reading these little weather barometers?

"The SIZE of the brown band is said to be an indicator of winter’s severity. The narrower the band, the harsher the winter. If woolly worms are more brown than black and the middle band tends toward orange, that indicates the winter will be mild."

Hey, does anyone know where little Niko is?

We’re obviously poking a little fun at the defenseless little creatures, (Not the woolly worms, but the festival organizers), because the truth is, "No Virginia…there is no Jim Cantore (or Brad Panovich) among the woolly worms of the world."

While it’s a fun bit of wisdom, according to experts at the West Virginia University Extension Service – there is no scientific evidence suggesting that woolly worms can predict the weather.

While we’re busy bursting bubbles, that furry groundhog in Pennsylvania is faking it as well!

One little factoid that might be of interest to woolly worm fans is that woolly worms go through six larval stages before entering their pupal or winter cocoon stage. In other words, the caterpillar molts SIX times and the color and size of its bands may change from molt to molt!

The West Virginia Extension Service experts say that bands vary from molt to molt and from species to species and bear NO meaning.

So, woolly worms cannot be counted on to provide a peek at what the coming winter holds. Still, this fall’s woolly worms will become next spring’s moths. And that in itself is a pretty amazing feat.

Nevertheless – Here’s What "Niko" says will happen this Winter!

Lori Parada, from Ocala, Florida, proudly stood by as "Niko" won her $1070 on the day and it also forced her to stand by as festival staffers, including Tommy Burleson, Roy Krege and Ray Russell, "read the worm".

According to Niko and company…the 2005-2006 Winter will fall in this sequence of weeks beginning with the first week of winter, which start December 21st.

The Winter Forecast?

Week 1: Cold and snowy

Week 2: Cold and snowy

Week 3: Cold and snowy

Week 4: Cold and snowy

Week 5: Severe cold and light snow

Weeks 6-11: Normal cold, No snow

Weeks 12-13: Cold and light snow


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Mike Doble
Mike is the Editor and founder of SkiSoutheast.com, SkiNC.com and ResortCams.com. Since September 1996 he has posted more than 13,000 posts, articles, photos and videos promoting all of the ski areas of North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland.Mike is the father of four daughters, is an avid skier and enjoys golf, tennis, kayaking and hiking in the mountains. Winter snowsports and Summer boating on Watauga Lake are among his favorite pastimes.