I noticed an unusually large fall of acorns the past few weeks in my backyard here in Paradelle. That is one of the signs of a hard winter ahead. At least that is one of the many weather lore beliefs.

If you are a believer that signs in nature can forecast whether or not the coming winter will be a tough one to endure, then you can go through this list and see how many things you can answer “Yes” to for your area. If you answer more than half as being true this year, then it will be a rough winter.

Of course, the tough part of this test is that most of us pay little attention to the natural world. Would you know a wooly bear caterpillar if you saw one? Are there any pigs, cows or beehives near you to observe?

But, if this approach to weather prognostication interests you and gets you to be more mindful to the world around you, that is a plus.

Wooly Bear Caterpillar

Wooly Bear caterpillar predicting a milder winter

The first Colonists in North America were well aware of the woolly bear, a brownish-black caterpillar, which is still a pretty common sight inching across roads and surfaces on warm days. They hatch from an egg in warm weather months and chow down until autumn comes and then they look for winter shelter until spring. Woolly bears have 13 segments which are colored black and reddish-brown. Weather lore says that says fat caterpillars and the colors on the wooly bear type predict the upcoming winter. The wider a woolly bear’s middle brown section is, the milder the winter. On the other hand, if there is more black than brown, the upcoming winter should prove harsh.

Scientists don’t give any credence to wooly bears or most weather folklore.  They would say that a good growing season in nature means a woolly bear eats well and grows too. And as far as that brown band goes, they say it is based on age. As it ages, a caterpillar sheds its outer layer up to six times before reaching adult size. Each time it molts, it becomes less black and more reddish-brown. So old caterpillars who have shed their outer layers a number of times on the way to adulthood just have more brown.  More wooly bear trivia: eventually that caterpillar will spin a cocoon in spring and emerge as an Isabella tiger moth.

SIGNS THAT THE WINTER AHEAD WILL BE A HARSH ONE

  1. An unusual abundance of acorns, as well as
  2. Squirrels gathering nuts earlier in the year.
  3. When things in nature try to increase their own protection, that is seen as a sign of a bad winter. Thicker than normal onion skins or corn husks as well as hickory nuts having heavy shells and even when new tree bark is heaviest on the north side of the tree.
  4. Crickets are in the chimney or early to appear on your “hearth.”
  5. Hoot owls call late into autumn.
  6. Raccoons have thick tails and bright bands.
  7. Frequent halos/rings around the sun or moon.
  8. Heavy and numerous fogs in August.
  9. Woodpeckers sharing a tree.
  10. Early arrival of the snowy owl.
  11. Early departure of geese and ducks and the early migration of the Monarch butterfly.
  12. Thick hair on the nape (back) of the cow’s neck.
  13. Heavy and numerous fogs during August.
  14. Mice entering homes aggressively and eating ravenously from your “stores.”
  15. Spiders spinning larger than usual webs and entering the house in great numbers.
  16. Pigs gathering sticks. Why they would gather them, I don’t know.
  17. Insects marching in a straight line, rather than meandering.
  18. Early seclusion of bees within the hive.
  19. Muskrats burrowing holes high on the riverbank.
  20. “See how high the hornet’s nest, ‘twill tell how high the snow will rest”
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