Nevin Mills, age 2, the grandson of Gary and Rosemary Mills, of Cedar Springs, befriended a woolly “bear” caterpillar that he named “Bob.”
This type of caterpillar is the larval form of the Isabella Tiger moth. They hatch during warm weather from eggs laid by a female moth. Mature woolly bears search for sites under bark or inside cavities of rocks or logs where they can stay the winter. (That’s why you see so many of them crossing roads and sidewalks in the fall.)
When spring arrives, woolly bears spin fuzzy cocoons and transform inside them into full-grown moths.
According to the Farmer’s Almanac, woolly “bear” caterpillars became famous when Dr. C.H. Curran, curator of insects at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, performed an experiment at Bear Mountain State Park on the woolly “bear” caterpillars to predict the weather. From 1948 to 1956, he collected as many caterpillars as he could in a day, determined the average number of reddish-brown segments, and forecast the coming winter weather through a reporter friend at The New York Herald Tribune.
According to legend, the wider that middle brown section is (i.e., the more brown segments there are), the milder the coming winter will be. Conversely, a narrow brown band is said to predict a harsh winter. During Curran’s experiments, he found the bands to be wider, and the winters were somewhat milder. He knew, however, that he was testing a small amount of data, and it was an excuse to have fun more than anything scientific.