Before there were weather apps for your smartphone, Doppler radar, or the National Weather Service, our ancestors looked to the signs from nature to prepare for what was to come. A wonderful friend of Farmers’ Almanac’s Editor, Ray Geiger’s, Cleveland weather guru Dick Goddard put together a laundry list of 20 signs of nature that can predict a harsh winter ahead. We featured the list in the 1978 Farmers’ Almanac, and it is still relevant today.
20 Signs of a Cold and Harsh Winter
Here are the signs of a hard winter to come according to folklore:
1. Thicker-Than-Normal Onions or Corn Husks.
2. Woodpeckers Sharing a Tree
3. The Early Arrival of the Snowy Owl
4. The Early Departure of Geese and Ducks
5. The Early Migration of the Monarch Butterfly
6. Thick Hair on the Nape of a Cow’s Neck
7. Heavy and Numerous Fogs During August
8. Raccoons With Thick Tails and Bright Bands
9. Mice Chewing Furiously To Get Into Your Home
10. The Early Arrival of Crickets on the Hearth
11. Spiders Spinning Larger-Than-Usual Webs and Entering the House in Great Numbers
12. Pigs Gathering Sticks
13. Ants Marching in a Line Rather Than Meandering
14. Early Seclusion of Bees Within the Hive
15. Unusual Abundance of Acorns
16. Muskrats Burrowing Holes High on the River Bank
17. “See how high the hornet’s nest, ‘twill tell how high the snow will rest.”
18. The Size of the Orange Band on the Woolly Bear (or Woolly Worm) Caterpillar
According to folklore, if the woolly worm caterpillar’s orange band is narrow, the winter will be snowy; conversely, a wide orange band means a mild winter (all black caterpillars are not woolly worms). And fuzzier-than-normal woolly worm caterpillars are said to mean that winter will be very cold.
19. Squirrels Gathering Nuts Early to Fortify Against a Hard Winter
20. Frequent Halos or Rings Around the Sun or Moon Forecasts Numerous Snowfalls
What About Persimmons?
Winter weather lore says to cut inside the seed of a ripe persimmon—the shape of the cotyledon will tell you what’s in store for winter. Read more about how to predict the weather with your locally grown persimmon here.