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John Fulton

John Fulton
Former County Extension Director

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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis

Signs of Fall and Folklore Predictors of Winter

Posted by John Fulton -

All we have to do is look at a calendar, and we can see fall is coming at us rapidly. There are also many other signs, symptoms, and legends that predict the change in season and the severity of the winter.

The wooly bear caterpillar legend is one of the most often quoted. The banded wooly bear is black at both ends, and has orange and black stripes in the middle. The legend says the more stripes that are black in the middle, the more severe the winter. Science says more stripes are dark dependent on moisture conditions in the area and the age of the caterpillar. There are also nine US species. The banded wooly bear is the larvae of the Isabella moth. Other moth larvae in the group have different colored caterpillars.

Of course, the first frost can be predicted by the singing of cicadas. "Six weeks from the first song of the dog day cicada comes the first frost." Boy I hope not. That would mean next week is going to be very chilly. A yellow butterfly flying in your face also mean a frost, but this time it will be in 10 days.

There are some more meaningful signs. The buckeye trees have started losing their leaves in large numbers, and the crickets are "singing" – or trying to get into your home. Crickets are in the nuisance pest group, but are more troublesome than most since they make loud noises in the middle of the night.

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