Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Do Woolly Bear Caterpillars Forecast Winter Weather?

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. But is it true?
  • Between 1948 and 1956, Dr. Curran's average brown-segment counts ranged from 5.3 to 5.6 out of the 13-segment total, meaning that the brown band took up more than a third of the woolly bear's body. As those relatively high numbers suggested, the corresponding winters were milder than average.
  • Woolly bears, like other caterpillars, hatch during warm weather from eggs laid by a female moth.
  • Mature woolly bears search for overwintering sites under bark or inside cavities of rocks or logs. (That's why you see so many of them crossing roads and sidewalks in the fall.)
  • This medium-size moth, with yellowish-orange and cream-colored wings spotted with black, is common from northern Mexico throughout the United States and across the southern third of Canada.

Monday, September 16, 2013

A True Survivor

This buck first appeared at the feeding area last winter but it was heartbreaking to see him struggle through the snow because he has either a broken leg or dislocated shoulder of his front leg.   He flops his front leg out when he walks and cannot put much pressure on it but he seems to have adapted to this injury.  He also seems to have deformed antlers and I'm not sure if it is a genetic or nutritional issue (although he looks healthy).   It is a testament to his strength and determination that he has survived. 

From the University of Missouri: 

Antler deformations can also be caused by leg injuries, which often result from deer-vehicle accidents. Front leg injuries coincide with antler deformation on the same side as the injury — a front left leg injury will affect the left antler. Rear leg injuries coincide with antler deformation on the opposite side — a rear left leg injury will affect the right antler. Depending on the severity, injuries to the leg may result in deformations to the antler in consecutive years or the deer may make a full recovery. The biological mechanism controlling this relationship between leg injuries and antler deformations is not fully understood but is thought to be associated with reallocating nutrients toward healing the leg injury, instead of antler growth.