What the wooly worms tell us about winter

Diane and I have been spending a lot of time this past week outside the house, preparing the garden and yard for the transition from summer to autumn and then winter.

As we have worked, Diane has pointed out several times now the abundance of wooly worms she has come across in the gardens. Each time, she would call me over — for confirmation, I guess, as to what she was seeing.

Sure enough, all the worms accounted for this week had a great deal of black on them.

Why should you or I care, you ask?

I’m glad you did, as the more black on a wooly worm this time of year, supposedly, the harsher the upcoming winter will be. The more brown, the more mild the winter is predicted for an area.

Each of the worms in our gardens were very dark and black, which, if you believe in folklore, means cold, cold weather and more snow than usual.

All of us read these days about the “science” that surrounds issues. Since folklore hardly qualifies as “science,” I turned to our friends at the National Weather Service in Gaylord for a bit more insight.

Officials there reminded us that the first measurable snowfall of the year could be coming sometime in the next four to six weeks, so break out the snow shovels and fire up the snowblower.

Weather Service officials said the first snowfall across northern Michigan usually arrives somewhere from Oct. 21 through Nov. 13.

In Alpena and Northeast Michigan, the average first snowfall is Nov. 3, which is the third-earliest arrival date within the organization’s coverage area.

Only Sault Ste. Marie, at Oct. 21, and Gaylord, at Oct. 26, are earlier.

Nationally, officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Organization, of which the Weather Service is a branch, have said the Great Lakes region should experience a very wet winter this year.

However, regarding temperatures, at best their guess was 50-50 as to whether it would be warmer or colder, which really isn’t helpful at all.

Thus, I turned to the source of information that is “all things weather related” — the Old Farmer’s Almanac. And, from what you read there, prepare for a long and cold winter.

Almanac officials said the temperature will be below-average and, in some instances, “bone-chilling.”

While I share my wooly worm observation as a reminder to start preparing for what lies ahead, in fairness, I also should remind you not to lose sight of the beauty around you today.

As far as I’m concerned, this region’s best season is upon us now, and, within the days ahead, the colors should really be starting to turn.

It is a great time to get outside and enjoy the region, which Diane and I also did recently with a trip to Knaebe’s Mmmunchy Krunchy Apple Farm and a stop at Ocqueoc Falls.

Michigan is beautiful this time of year, with great day trip possibilities all around us.

I don’t know about those wooly worms. But I did get out my chook and gloves and have them ready — just in case.

Bill Speer recently retired as the publisher and editor of The News. He can be reached at bspeer@thealpenanews.com.


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