I don't have any pictures, so I'm just gonna' do my best to describe this.
Out in Kentucky, there are these super fuzzy caterpillars. They're black and orange, and about 2 or 3 inches long. Sometimes they're all black, all orange, or black on both ends and orange in the middle or vice versa.
My grandfather (Papaw) is an old "mountain man" kinda guy. Very woodsy. He was a coal miner back in the day, and grew up poor as dirt. He dropped out of school and went to work sometime around the fourth grade. He still doesn't read very well. He used to keep a still on the back forty of the farm, but until she died, my grandmother (Granny Bea being a good Christian woman and all) would always sneak out and find it, and trash it, whenever he'd be away visiting for a few days. He'd come back and rebuild it every time, but in a new place. In an odd way, it was sort of a lovers' game. He hasn't built one since she died a few years ago. It's so sweet in the most unusual way. It's sort of a shame, 'cause he made the best 'shine in the whole (dry) county. Don't ask me how I know. Nonya bizwax.
Anyways, back to the wooly worms. Every fall, he goes out on the farm, picks a few of them up, brings them back to the house, and predicts the weather of the coming winter by their color.
It goes like this. The winter is three months long, and the wooly worm has three "portions", the middle and the two ends. Now, where there's black, that's where the winter will be bad, and where there's orange, that's where the winter will be mild.
Old wives' tale, right? You would think.
I admit that I haven't ever kept a written journal or anything, to record his accuracy, and I further admit my bias. However, the entire family swears he's never been wrong. He can't read an almanac, so even if they got one every year, that wouldn't help him. He rarely leaves the farm, and even then only goes "a visitin' his kin", so we're talking backwoods folks here, not meteorologists or scientists or nothin'.
My question is, is there some way the wooly worm may have evolved some trait that causes it's coloration to react to atmospheric changes or something that would cause this phenomenon? Is it possible that maybe a particularly high humidity or something during the summer both portends a less mild winter and also affects the coloration of the wooly worm's wool?
Or are we poor country bumpkins just all being snookered?
Of course there is the possibility that our memories in March of what Papaw said in September and October are biased, but that IS a lot of folks to be remembering wrong, all exactly the same way. Possible.
(Anyone calls Papaw a liar gets a kick in the shin. I'm warning you ahead of time, just so y'know.)