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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!

Farmers' Almanac - Weather forecasting
Peter Geiger

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

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Josh A

Lots of the same. I’m in the mountains in California. Lots of woodpeckers sharing trees, early migrations, bright raccoon tails, darker deer and I’ve never seen so many acorns in many years.

Tracy M young

It’s been a lot of acorns this year that I haven’t seen in years

Annette Brandt

I am in virginia and the deer are a deep dark gray, I have been told that is a sign of a cold winter on the east coast.

Patti

I live in Michigan surrounded by oak trees. Had so many acorns it was hard to walk in the yard.

Sanders Vickey

Persmission have spoons in then in south ms where I live.

Nate

I’m getting an over abundance of brown acorns 10/16/21 in southern Oregon about 3 times as normal and with the dry summer I’m also surprised by how large the green apples are on the tree. We do not water them at all.

Sharon I.

I just now found a wooly caterpillar on my driveway, sitting as still as possible. I read the part about the narrow brown band and wide brown band. Without photos for comparison, I can’t tell if mine is narrow or wide. The black tips seem to be equal in size and the brown band takes up the rest of the space. I guess that would be a wide band. Wish I could see a picture of a narrow band for comparison. I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee (on the Georgia northern border).

Susan Higgins

Hi Sharon, if the orange band takes up more space than any of the black on the caterpillar, consider that a wide band.

Tena T Crawford

Lots of pecans shells on the ground. And half eaten green pecans. More than I usually see this time of year.

Amanda

I live in Kentucky and drive an hour everyday and have has to drive through thick fog every morning for months also I have caught several pictures of rings around the moon at night ! How can we prepare better for winter ?

Susan Higgins

Hi Amanda, the signs that our ancestors looked for are definitely alive and well in Kentucky, it sounds like. The Farmers’ Almanac is a great tool to help you prepare for winter. You can order your copy here.

Carla Fremen

I’ve heard lots of walnuts too and mine have dropping lots of them here in middle Tennessee

Peggy

I have never seen the squirrels work the Hickory trees as they are this year and they started months ago.
I have such a mesh of dropped nuts everywhere I am trying to clean up. They discard the bad ones & hull the good ones. Haven’t seen many acorns on the ground. SW MISSOURI

Marie

Hey Peggy! I’m also in SW MO and was researching the vibrant Fall colors and what it means for winter and came across this article. Seems to me last time we had a colorful Fall, we had a heck of a winter, yes? I too have noticed the squirrels have been especially busy and we’ve had huge spiderwebs outside. Perhaps we’ll get some good snows this year!

Peggy

Hickory nuts

Dawn M Ayala

Lots of acorns falling down squirrels are busy

Susan Beane

Spider webs everywhere, I live in Baltimore county, I have never seen so many spider webs! They are literally all over the grass, walls outside, the bushes my car! Everywhere! I wonder if thats a sign of a bad winter here? I hope it means a SNOWY winter ♡

Sharon I.

I can’t seem to stay ahead of the webs. I clean them off and within 24 hours, they are back again. If I clean away 2, 4 come back. It’s been horrible this year. My house looks like some sort of haunted house. I thought it was due to excess moisture in the air. Now I’m thinking it is the weather prediction like you all have said. I live in the Southern part of Tennessee — Tennessee/Georgia state line area.

Mark F.

Recent TV show revealed a imported huge yellow and black spider from China to your region that is non-poisonous but absolutely huge and spins a lot of webs. They said on a positive note… this spider will eat the Chinese Stink Bug.

Becca A.

I’m in Baltimore County too! It’s so nice to not only see a commenter from the same state, but the same county! I’ve been watching the signs too, and am wondering what kind of winter we will have!

Stephanie

I live in NC and we are still having hot summer weather in the low to mid 80’s. We see birds, bees, and no acorns have fallen off trees yet. It’s October and it’s looking like we will have the same temperatures in November.

MARILYN HUMPHREY

large amounts of pine cones on the pine trees

I see a lot of acorns in my backyard and on the si

Why is there so many acorns in my backyard the squirrels are not eating them

Sandi Duncan

Here’s an article that may answer your question – https://www.farmersalmanac.com/green-acorns-falling-135920

I see a lot of acorns in my backyard and on the si

I see a lot of acorns in my backyard and on the sidewalk what does that mean

Sandi Duncan

Some say it means a rough winter but it may just be a cycle that the tree is in. Let us know what type of winter you wind up getting.

char

Here southeastern Michigan I’ve never seen so many acorns drop from my big giant oak tree. There everywhere. I’ve also been seeing the willy caterpillars with a fair amount of brown. So far it’s been a pretty wet fall too.

Cwilson

Acorns by have off on years in a pattern…but have noticed heavy bearing of dogwoodberries. Pribably nor earlier but it seems like it. Northwest GA. Hydrange still putting out though.

Kent MEDALEN

Just learning a lot, about of different things and it all came from the “Farmer’s Almanac.”

Lori

Here in Lake Tahoe you can tell by the enormous amount of green pine cones. I’ve been here 35yeats and have never seen the squirrels gather and store like they are now. My planter pots are STUFFED with hundreds of green unripe pine cones. This winter is going to be long and heavy…

Dianne Calderwood

Lots of acorns on the ground and large groups of bees around my plants and geese flying south.

Alex Landenwitsch

I saw a wooly warm that was all orange when walking my dog Bella at the park. Next to me were a couple who said this is a sign of a cold winter. I asked how and they said the Farmers Almanac. Thank you!

Susan Higgins

Hi Alex, good news: if the caterpillar is all one color, and doesn’t have bands of orange and black, it’s not a true woolly worm.

Eddie

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

Linda

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

Debra

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

Libby_pea33

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. 🙏🏼🇺🇸🙏🏼

MaryJC83

I noticed the fewer birds this month too.

Grace

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

Libby_pea33

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

Beth

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.

Judy

Texas also, its like all the birds are gone except crows,and saw geese flying north today not south,very strange

Debra

i HAVE HAD a CHIPMUNK AT MY BIRDFEEDER BACK IN JULY THAT WOULD FILL HIS CHEEKS SEVERAL TIMES a DAY AS WELL AS a gREY sQUIRREL. Is this A sign of A bad winter here in East Tenn.

Susan Higgins

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

Robert

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.

Robert

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.

MaryJC83

May be. But these are signs used by farmers way back.

Susan

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 5 months 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.

Joan

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.”

Kate

“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.

Savanna

I have a woolly bear caterpillar

MaryJC83

What does he say?

Anne

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.

Mary

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.🤷

Sasha

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!

Dianne Calderwood

I’m in Northern Va. and deer cross my land a lot and I’ve noticed twin fawns also.

Felicia

You’re replying to a 12 yr old comment though…

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!

Chas

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

Chas

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.

Carole

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.

Chas

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?
-Charles

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

mountainsister

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.

Tina

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.

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