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The Black Woolly Worm

By Staff | Oct 12, 2016

Last weekend I was sitting on the porch reading the paper when, from nowhere, a stink bug landed on my head. Officially known as the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, this unpleasant bug is an unwanted invader from South East Asia. At this time of year they become a real nuisance. Not only does this bug have a foul odor when killed, but it also wants to invade our homes as the nights cool.

And if the foul smelling stink bug is not bad enough, there is the fall infestation of the red lady bugs. I know they are really not lady bugs – they are some sort of Asian beetle – but they look like a lady bug to me; they have an unpleasant odor when they die suddenly. I once heard they were released by a secret government agency to kill the Gypsy Moths. Truth is, I think they released them to infest the walls of my cellar house each fall. It stands in the afternoon sun and the concrete blocks absorb the warmth. That warmth seems to draws the small red beetle by the thousands. Try as we might to avoid them, Mary and I just put up with them for a short time each fall.

Also at this time of year, I begin to see katydids near my porch. Sometimes they serenade me with their songs of love or loss or whatever. I don’t think they are singing about anything except cold weather is coming.

At the edge of the porch, a black cricket calls to others as the darkness approaches. For some reason the early fall evenings make the insect population begin to become more active and less secretive about their fading summer existence.

Last weekend, Mary asked me to move a cabinet in our kitchen so she could dust behind it. For my part, the dust bunnies who hide there have every right to be there, but she does not feel that way. Anyway, as I moved it away from the wall she pointed and said, “Spider, KILL IT!” I saw the dark shape in the shadows and quickly dispatched it with my shoe. As I went to sweep it out the door, I saw it was not a spider, but a brown cricket. Then you know what Mary said to me? “It is bad luck to kill a cricket.” She was the one who said “KILL IT!”

I have kept bees for six years. And for six years I have worked around them and probably only been stung once or twice in all those years. But later that same day of the cricket killing, I was cutting the grass around the hive like I have many times before. Without warning, the bees came out in great numbers and stung me several times. My right eye swelled and looked like I had been in a fight with a prize fighter and lost. In fact, my right eye got so bad, it closed off and I had to make a trip to my doctor who quickly said, “You need a shot!” I keep bees for my fruit trees. I don’t keep them to attack me for no reason. I think maybe they are unhappy about cold weather coming so soon. Or could it have been a bit of bad cricket luck? Mary’s words rang in my head, “Kill it!”

Mary’s flower bed has what I call a “War Spider” living in it. You have probably seen them if you have a garden or flower bed at this time of year. They are shiny black with a bright yellow pattern on the back. When you approach, they bounce their web as a signal for you to go away. I call them “War Spiders.” When I was growing up, the old timers use to say, “When a War Spider spins their web and makes a “W” in the middle of their web, war was coming.” I don’t believe it, but it is just one of those old stories told by those who do believe in such things, but not me. But, I now believe, “Don’t kill a cricket,” but I don’t worry about a War Spider’s web art.

But, there are things I do believe nature tells us. Take for instance the Black Woolly Worm’s prediction. It is said, if the Woolly Worms are all black, it is a sign of a bad winter coming. If this is true I need to send Mary to the store to get herself a new snow shovel before winter gets here. Usually the Woolly Worms have a reddish brown band around the middle of their bodies. The more reddish brown, the milder the winter. Last fall the Woolly Worms that came on to my porch were mostly reddish in color. But, this year, all that I have seen so far are black and large in size. Maybe Mary should get two shovels in case she wears the first one out. I hate to see her have to tape a broken handle back together again this year.

Whatever the reason for the upcoming winter conditions, the insects seem to know something we don’t. For years people have tried to relate weather patterns to insects, aches and pains, and just a feeling on the back of their neck. Whatever the way we predict the weather, it almost is as accurate as those weather people on TV. With all their technology and fancy Doppler radar predictions, I think looking to the evening sky is the best way to know what is coming. You know the saying “Red at night, Sailors delight; Red in morning, Sailors take warning.” I did ask the Black Woolly Worm if he has a saying about the weather when I picked him up and looked him in the eyes. He didn’t make a prediction about the weather, but he did say, “Tell Mary to get you a new snow shovel, YOU will need her help this winter.” Can you imagine that Black Woolly Worm saying that to me as I looked Through the Lens?