Signs of Winter Weather: 14 Folklore Predictions

Can the colors of a woolly worm predict the severity of the upcoming winter? There are many old wives’ tales and folk legends that claim you can tell how tough of a winter it will be by looking at certain signs all around you. These sayings have been passed down for generations, and some may have been simplified or changed, but many people still rely on them to get a sense of what to expect. There’s certainly something to be said for carefully observing our natural surroundings the way our ancestors did. Here are 14 folk methods of predicting winter weather.

Woolly Worms


(image via: tony fischer photography)

According to folklore, the black-and-brown caterpillars of the tiger moth species can predict just how cold and snowy it’s going to be for the upcoming winter when spotted during the fall season. The caterpillars have black bands at each end of their bodies, and a reddish-brown section in the center. Folk wisdom has it that when the brown band is narrow, winter weather will be harsh. How accurate is this? Surveys have found that woolly worms’ weather predictions have been accurate 80% of the time since the 1950s.

Animals’ Fur Gets Thicker


(image via: scott feldstein)

If animals have an unusually thick coat of fur as winter approaches, expect it to be colder than normal. A similar sign is said to be when animals, including pets, seem to be storing more fat than usual.

Unusual Squirrel and Bird Activity


(image via: binary ape)

Are the squirrels in your yard urgently gathering up great quantities of acorns, and birds dive-bombing your bird feeder in an attempt to get as much food out of it as quickly as possible? This may mean that a big storm is on the way. Squirrels may also bury their nuts deeper than usual. The idea is that these animals can sense impending weather, and are preparing for it.

Thick Shells on Acorns


(image via: muffet)

Can acorns predict a rough winter? The Farmer’s Almanac, which has long been relied upon to provide long-range winter weather forecasts based on mathematical formulas and astronomic activity, points out a piece of lore that says thicker acorn shells mean an extra-cold winter. The Almanac notes that such sayings have been “handed down from generation to generation, so perhaps in some of the handing down, some of the lore has been altered slightly. But some have remained the same and often times prove to be quite accurate.”

Bees Nesting in the Trees


(image via: kristie’s nature portraits)

When hornets, wasps and bees start building their nests higher in the trees, expect a severe winter with lots of snow.

Foggy August


(image via: rvwithtito)

Legend has it that for every foggy morning in August, there will be a snowfall during the winter. Is this really true? Attempts to analyze figures in one small North Carolina town found that it didn’t hold up, but no large-scale studies have been done.

Lighting in Winter, Expect Snow in 10 Days


(image via: kyle may)

If you see lightning during the winter, it will supposedly snow in 10 days. On a similar note, if the first thunder comes from the east, winter is over.

Early Bird Migration


(image via: ibm4381)

When the geese start flying south earlier than usual, they’re fleeing oncoming winter weather. The same holds true for other species of birds that usually migrate out of your area. If they’re still hanging out in late November, the idea is that they’re not in a big hurry to leave because they know the winter weather won’t be severe.

Here’s another, much odder tale involving geese: obtain the breastbone of a decently deceased goose (good luck with that.) The length of the breastbone indicates the length of the oncoming winter, and the color indicates its severity. The more mottled the breastbone, the colder and snowier it will be.

Early Rodent Infestation


(image via: nick moise)

It’s no old wives tale that rodent activity decreases during unseasonably warm weather, but some people believe they can sense minute changes in weather and prepare for it, too. If your home is prone to mice infestations and you start hearing activity in your walls earlier than normal, winter may come earlier than you expect.

Bigger Pine Cones


(image via: oakley originals)

Trees will supposedly produce a greater quantity of larger pine cones than usual before a severe winter, to ensure that some seeds will make it through the squirrel and bird feeding frenzy.

Thicker Corn Husks


(image via: alternative heat)

The same folk wisdom that says thick acorn shells can predict a severe winter applies to corn husks and onion skins, too. If corn husks are very chick and tight, the corn – which relies on warm weather to thrive – is trying to protect itself from cooler weather.

Brighter Fall Foliage


(image via: kimberlykv)

The brighter the fall foliage, the colder and snowier the winter ahead, the saying goes. In truth, the color of fall foliage depends on a number of factors including how dry the past year has been. But chlorophyll, the pigment that makes leaves green, does begin to decrease as the nights get longer in the fall, with cooler weather bringing brighter colors.