MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - On February 2nd, while the Northeast is transfixed on the groundhog, here in the Carolinas, all eyes are on the caterpillar known as the Woolly Worm.
According to the National Weather Service in La Crosse, Wisconsin, the alleged forecast from the caterpillar comes from its coloring. The common folklore points to the wider brown band telling of a milder winter.
Since there are 13 segments of the caterpillar, the myths add that each segment signifies a week of the 13 weeks of winter. If the head is black, the start of the winter will allegedly be cold or snowy. Meanwhile if the caterpillar's tail is black, the myths say the end of winter will be rough with snow and cold.
In fact there's an annual Woolly Worm Festival in Banner Elk, North Carolina.
The caterpillar's color depends on a variety of factors, rather than a forecast. The color varies based on the caterpillar's feeding, its age and its species.
If the woolly worm eats more during the growing season, it will grow bigger and make the reddish bands smaller. In reality, this makes the woolly worm a better indicator of the past season, rather than the winter ahead.
Woolly worms also become more red/brown as they age and molt. The caterpillars will shed more than six times before they transition to adulthood. The skin actually helps them become frozen safely through the winter, and survive temperatures as low as -90°F.