Dr. Robert Baldridge (Baylor University, Biology professor) identified this as a "woolly bear" caterpillar.
Mike Quinn (Invertebrate Biologist, Wildlife Science, Reserch & Diversity of the Texas Parks & Wildlife) said, "Larvae are possibly Giant Leopard Moth (Ecpantheria scribonia)."
Woolly Bears predicting weather?
Dunn reported the following weather saying in regard to Woolly Bear caterpillars and noted that there is no verfication that they are accurate.
- Observing the width of the color band on some caterpillars. These caterpillars are black at both ends, with a reddish-brown band in the middle. In 1608 Edward Topsell, a naturalist, called them "Palmer" worms - so named after the "palmer", or wandering monk - because of their roving habits and ruggedness (they are seen so late in fall). He also mentioned, they were known as "beare worms."
- They have further been compared to bears in that they hibernate and have a similar walking gate. They have a dark hairy appearance, and curl up into a ball when touched. Today they are commonly referred to as "woolly bears". "Woolly bears" are caterpillars of moths and there are over 2,000 species of them.
- The common species picked for "weather forecasting" is the tiger moth, Isia isabella . The theory is that the narrower the reddish-brown band, the colder and longer will be the winter: the wider the band the milder the winter. The width of the band supposedly forecasts the "average" temperature for the entire winter, and has nothing to do with a cold spell or with an occasional storm such as the blizzard of 1888, which happened during a year the woolly bear predicted a mild winter.
Dunn, D. K. Minibeast folklore. Lansing MI : Young Entomologists Society. http://members.aol.com/YESedu/folklore.html .
Photo: Courtesy of SP Johnson