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20 Signs Of A Hard Winter Ahead

Before there were weather apps for your smartphone, people looked to nature to prepare for what's to come. What signs of a hard winter are you already seeing in your backyard?

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.

two ears of corn in their husks on a table
If you grew corn or harvested some onions from the garden, check the skins to see if they’re thicker or thinner (it doesn’t count with store-bought onions, which may have been grown elsewhere).

2. Woodpeckers Sharing a Tree

3. The Early Arrival of the Snowy Owl

Snowy owl - Owls
Snowy Owl

4. The Early Departure of Geese and Ducks

geese flying south at sunset

5. The Early Migration of the Monarch Butterfly

6. Thick Hair on the Nape of a Cow’s Neck

dairy cow

7. Heavy and Numerous Fogs During August

foggy lake
Pay attention and count the number of fogs in August. Folklore says the number will correspond to the number of snowstorms the coming winter.

8. Raccoons With Thick Tails and Bright Bands

9. Mice Chewing Furiously To Get Into Your Home

mouse in a hole in a home

10. The Early Arrival of Crickets on the Hearth

Crickets are not only a symbol of good luck but they can also tell us about the winter weather ahead.

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

Acorns on the ground in fall
An abundance of acorns is a sign of things to come. Seeing green acorns? Here’s what it means.

16. Muskrats Burrowing Holes High on the River Bank

Keep an eye on Susie and Sam!

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

Squirrels - Climate
Are the squirrels in your backyard furiously gathering and storing nuts? A hard winter may be in store.

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.

Weigh In

Tell us: are you seeing signs in your backyard? Share with us in the comments below!

Peter Geiger is the Editor of the Farmers' Almanac. Read his full biography.

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Keavy Kentucky, really largest squrill nests l have ever seen in all my out door life. I’m 68 year old outdoorsman.

Laura L

There are so many more acorns this year- plus they are larger than normal and often doubles. This photo is taken at 4:30 and the deck was cleared early this morning.
I am located on the north shore of Eastern Long Island, NY


Great fun to read good info . Wish I had read sooner !


Here in Tennessee there is an unusal amount of bees in the ground. Does this have anything to do with the winter ?


I’m in Central MO. We have had tons of spiders & big webs outside the house for a few weeks now, more than usual. Now, the last few days, I’ve found several big spiders in my house but they were all dead already. I don’t have pesticides or anything. Not sure how they died. Also, more crickets around/inside the house recently. And just yesterday, found out that mice have already chewed up my paper towel & toilet paper stock in a closet.
And I’m not positive, but it seems like we have had a lot less birds the last month or so. Not just winter birds, all birds, as a whole, seem less in numbers. Very strange. Stock up friends, this winter is going to be rough…no matter where you live. 🙏🏼🇺🇸🙏🏼


I’m in Texas and birds have not been around at all for weeks already…they used to come around a lot.. I only hear cicadas now..and see a few lizards occasionally…what’s going on? Thx


I’m in central MO. I’ve noticed the same, less birds in general. Not just the migrating ones. Very strange.


I am in Brooklyn NY, and the birds have disappeared since the heavy rain that hit NYC from Hurricane Ida. The only birds I am seeing (or hearing) are pigeons. I don’t know what is happening.



Susan Higgins

Hi Debra, it sounds like they are definitely storing up for the winter! But that’s pretty standard behavior for them.


Last year I saw squirrels making their nests in the trees in late September this year I noticed it was the third week of August.


I live in Northern Illinois.

David Jessup

4 freezing mornings in August. 1st day of September, 26 degrees… hoses frozen. None of that was forecast properly, since we all know that weather forecasting is like your horoscope, never accurate, hit and miss… it matters not what science or forecasts tell us. It’s always a surprise.


ducks and geese are leaving the Oregon coast in droves
also much fog daily

Linda lockhart

R/T fires below you?

David Jessup

I wish the tourists would follow that example…

Michelle Zentko

I live in South Central Indiana. We recently found a Hornets Nest in one of our tallest trees. It’s several feet higher than our 2 story house!

Last edited 1 month ago by Michelle Zentko
Ted Case

All of my acorn trees (including several spices) are loaded with tons of acorns this year. Here in Salt Lake We have been experiencing the worst drought in recorded history. Are the acorns a sign of a hard winter ahead?

Ashley W.

I was coming to these blogs to see about the same sort of hope! I live in Northern California (Paradise to be specific), we could definitely go for a good solid winter.


It makes one really think to know that the weather scientists aren’t as good at forecasting as an onion or an oak tree. And if the world is getting so much warmer, where did “green Christmas, fat graveyard” come from? I haven’t seen a green Christmas since I was about three.

Susan Higgins

We hadn’t heard that one. We’ve heard “Green Christmas, White Easter.”


“A green Christmas makes a full graveyard” is from the belief that the mild winters meant more freeze/thaw cycles resulting in fatal respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia, bronchitis and influenza.


I have a woolly bear caterpillar


Here is SLC UT I have never had so many spiders migrate into my house during fall. I can’t say I like it! But wonder if it means a harder winter.


We have had an abundance of acorns dropping here in Bucks County, Pennsylvania starting early fall. My dad remarks he can’t remember the last time his 30-year old oak dropped so profusely. The squirrels can’t keep up. Are we in for a rough winter? And the trees are holding their leaves.

Linda lockhart

Us to in far western NY.🤷


Acorns acorns acorns… I live in Northern Ca. and this year we have acorns larger than I have ever seen. Big whoppers that really are loud on the deck when they fall from our Oak trees. I think that there are more acorns than usual as well. The crickets are very noisey at night and I don’t remember ever hearing them that loud. I noticed that someone else wrote this but we also have seen many mother deer with twins, I can’t recall seeing a mom with just one baby. Should be an interesting winter!

margaret yagoda

We are in New London Ohio and are surrounded by oak trees. The acorns are falling on our camper making it sound like bombs going off! This is the first time I have ever experienced this. Walking is impossible!


6 min until its fall!!!!!!!!


To John : Goose never migrate in nebraska.

Mike M

All summer I was noticing that all of the pine trees around my area just north of Boston are absolutely laden with pine cones right at the very top of the tree. I’ve never seen this many pine cones before. Early on they were difficult to see because they were green but I first noticed them because the extra weight was making those upper limbs droop. Now that they’re turning brown they’re easy to see.

Does it mean anything about what the tree ‘thinks’ is coming or only a response to the cool damp weather we had for most of the summer around here? (It’s been cool and dry around here lately though)

Linda lockhart

I heard the same about pine cones as acorns. Mother nature provides an extra amount of food in the forest and brush for wild life to prepare for long hard winter.


We have that too, in Pittsburgh PA. I have been asking people “What does that mean?” No one seems to know. We have 2 pine trees on our property and I’ve seen others, with TONS of pine cones. Since we’ve lived here, I’ve NEVER seen this many pine cones this late in the season!!!

John Pearson

Checking in from East Tennessee.
1. Seeing lots of black hairy caterpillars. No orange visible–solid black.
2. Excessive abundance of acorns this year. All of the oaks around the house are bombarding the roof and deck. Things that go bump in the night.

3. Squirells are busy all day long gathering the abundance of acorns.

4. Excessive spiderwebs.

5. As of today, the geese are still around.


Major cooldown next week, do not know how long it would last…..and I still see Monarch butterflies. The warmness in the north is caused by what?

debbie young

i’ve seen big black wooly worms here in S.E. Texas and you could’nt see through them do’es this mean our winter will be colder and harder than usual?
please help me


The humans in WV are really out there cutting wood. Lots of cool foggy mornings and an abundance of acorns. My bears are mating again this season. I think it will be a bad winter especially since my snow tires are almost bald.


We live in Central Texas. The “earlier” of our Native Pecan trees are beginning to lose their leaves, and the leaves on our Bur Oak are showing signs of age.


I live in East TN. and I have noticed the squirrels are taking more walnuts this year than last, for sure. Also have been seeing more spider webs and more spiders than usual. I very well remember the squirrels were so busy, they were bumping heads trying to hide nuts in the fall of 1992, and then on March 13, 1993 we were hit with a blizzard. It rained, turned to thick ice on roads, and then snowed, and drifted deeper in some areas. I didn’t drive for 9 days, the temperature stayed below 32 at night so the snow stayed awhile. The kids could only play in it 15 min. at a time, because it was so very cold. First the snow had to melt, then the ice, the ice was 3 inches thick on the roads. Just stay safe, and watch the news.


also seen alot of baby robins in july and baby b jays in august/september,grackles in july


TOO MUCH ACORNS. More than usual amounts of geese flying south. Heavy fog this month. Big webs. 1-2 Bees alone

Jim Gibbons

We have had canadian geese around most of the summer. Also, the desert Quail have had lots of little ones.

Heard from Al Gore?


In Salt Lake City today, August 20th, 2009, and my husband and I saw lots of geese already heading south. I guess we’re in for a hard winter this year.

barbara kennedy

today is august 18, 2009. wondering if we are going to have an early winter. seeing monarch migration for the past week, abundance of green acorns falling, and squirrels are very busy. we are in the sierra foothills about 45 miles NE of sacramento, ca.

kate suss

I have seen many does with fawns the last few weeks and they ALL have twins,I have never seen this before.Is it because we had such a cold winter here in the northeast or this winter is going to be worse?

as you know

As you all know…the winter of 2008 was TERRIBLE in the Mid West…ice storms that nearly distroyed Kentucky and parts of Indiana. Yeah…I’m gonna watch what nature does this year, soI’ll be better prepared!!

Cold in SC

Here in the Upstate of SC we have been experienceing warm days and freezing nights already. It was extremely dry this past summer. The monarch all was migrating in july, not sure if that is normal for them. The pecan trees all are wieghted down with pecans, breaking the limbs. The acorns are huge and falling like hail outta the sky. I have found 3 wolly bears and all 3 were solid white, no orange or brown to them at all and fat as my thumb. The squirrels are all gathering pecans, but not burying them just putting them under tuffs of grass. I haven’t seen as many geese as we normally have around here. I say we are in for one heck of a winter. We are over due for it, like Shannon from ATL said it’s been a while since we have had a good snow. I say it doesn’t hurt to be prepared for the winter ahead.


East Tennessee. I live partly in a forest. I Have had a hot dry summer, well year rather. My Oak trees have hardly put out acorns. I suppose it’s due to the drought. Although the humming birds did leave in mid September. I have a cloud of Lady Bugs that are moving into my attic and finding their way into my house. Could that be a sign of a hard winter?


I’m in Southern California and we are having a huge increase in crickets. This fall we are having 2-3 a night in the house and hundreds outside. It is the same for our whole neighborhood. I hope it means a wet winter as we could really use it here.


I live in Rhode Island and this has been a very mild Fall so far. The first time I can remember no leaves on the ground for Halloween. Theyt just started dropping last week and the tress are still full. Not the ususal mess of leaves in the street we usually have by end of October. I am looking out my window now an an expanse of color witrh 69 dwgree temperatures predicted for today and low 60’s the rest of the week. We have had 1 mild frost so far, nothing substantial. If that is any predictor for winter, I’ll place MY money on a mild winter here at lrast.

Lance Uppercut

Re Claptrap:

A huge part of science has to do with the observation of nature. You can learn a lot from being in touch with the land and a wholesale discounting of behavioral cues displayed by the animal/insect kingdom is flawed logic.


Well I am all confused, cause I have seen hornet nests built both up high, and down low. But then I have also seen the wooly worm in solid black and with the fat orange stripe. What is the winter of 2008 really gonna be like this year?


I live 30 min. outside Atlanta and have a huge yard with ancient oaks.
There is a major bumper crop of acorns on the ground everwhere – and an unusually large population of squirrels that have sprung up. We haven’t had a really hard snow in more than 10 years – I think we’re over due down here.
For those of you who are sceptic’s: when it’s overcast, don’t you think “its going to rain”? If you have studied anything about our world’s past weather then you know that there are cycles and signs. You are foolish just to dismiss it. The animals plan ahead – don’t you? Even bugs plan ahead. Just because you can’t sense what they sense doesn’t mean its not for real.
Remember the tsunami? All the animals ran for higher ground/
remember those elephants that
saved those tourists?
I think I’m going to take nature’s hint and plan ahead.

Charlie H.

Doug the Sceptic (sic),

Some people take a leap of faith with these things and you should not be so dismissive. People of science are disproved all the time.

I’d also advise in these difficult economic times that you not bet a year’s salary on anything outside of the sun rising in the east.

I did enjoy your use of the word “claptrap” however. For those who would like a definition:

“Absurd or nonsensical talk or ideas.”

Doug the sceptic

Please tell me you are kidding. For example, squirrels gathering their nuts early? Really? Squirrels will gather nuts whenever they are available. If the nuts are early, it has nothing to do with future weather; it has everything to do with the weather up to this point.

Anyone who believes this claptrap needs to have their head examined. You can no more predict the weather using these techniques than by reading the leaves left in your tea cup.

If you don’t believe me, keep track of this junk and the subsequent weather for a decade, then go back and see how accurate they predicted the weather. I’ll bet a year’s salary that there is no correlation.

No wonder this country cannot keep up, we substitute premonition for scientific reason.


We cut open a persimmon plant here in Oklahoma this year….and it showed a “shovel” which means a harsh winter with heavy and wet snow.

A “fork” means a mild winter with light powdery snow

A “knife” means an icy winter with cutting winds.

Also, we have seen a lot of squirrels gathering their nuts early….and they have built their nests low in the trees which predicts that winter will be bad.


9 persimmons 7 spoons 1 knife and a snow shovel and woolly bears seen like a dozen or so all were black as coal unusually thick to been bow hunting the last two weeks under a hickory tree so many nuts very thick husk and i watch squirrels all day there thick tails follow them around as they burry all those hickory nuts and the spider webs are numerous and large fog was nearly a daily occurrence in aug (and i dont live near a river lol) and all the peach and apple orchards said there having a bumper crop one longtime farmer said this is the most peaches per tree hes seen in his 38 years of experience doves nearly all flew south befor the season even open o and sun spot are at a fifty year low over 200 spotless days so far thats remarkable with 3 months left in the year a cooler world wide the last 4 months and the pacific ocean as cold as its been in years so write out of your mouth “numbing cold” keith in mo


Eastern Oklahoma the persimmons have spoons, the maple tree leaves are turning red and falling and yes the crickets are on the move.


Cricket are moving in the garage to keep warm.


Hi from Kentucky. I live right outside of Louisville and I’ve noticed leaves already on the ground. It’s been hot & humid here, so I think the leaves are dying & not turning to fall. We haven’t had a good rain in close to a month. My father though noticed today that we have fuzzy; solid black caterpillars in our yard. Not sure what this means, but I think the almanac stated this part of the country (southeast) is suppose to have a regular/mild winter. We are overdue a hard, wet winter. We usually get one every 4-5 years. This past winter we didn’t get cold weather or noticeable snow amount til mid Feb to mid March. Bad winters here consist of regular snow falls of 8″ plus.

Jim Buchanan

I drove through the Poconos and No. NJ over the weekend and saw some color in trees in both places. I believe this can be attributed to the cool nights and bright days we’ve had in the past few weeks. Whether it predicts an early Fall/Winter, I don’t know.

Theresa Warner

We also have seen Heavy fog in August this year. I can`t remember when that has happened in the past.

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