Winter Weather Wives' Tales

  • Woolly bear caterpillars are the larval stage of the Isabella moth. They are black with a red-brown band in the middle, and according to folklore, the more black you see on these caterpillars, the harsher the winter will be. According to Iowa State University entomologist Donald Lewis, older caterpillars have more black than young ones, and if the fall weather is wet, they will often have more black. (Photo: Univ. of Missouri Extension)

  • A Canadian man became a local celebrity for examining the spleen of a pig to forecast the coming six months. It is divided into six sections representing the coming six months, and changes in thickness forecast changes in weather. Learn more about this fascinating method on the Pig Spleen Weather Prognistication Facebook page.

  • Another belief is that if you see pigs gathering sticks or leaves in the fall, there is a bad winter ahead. No word on whether pigs gathering straw or bricks are more reliable.

  • If you notice hornets, bees, and wasps building their nests higher than usual, like in the tops of trees rather than closer to ground level, a harsh winter with lots of snowfall may be coming. (Photo: University of Maryland Extension)

  • If you notice livestock, pets, and wildlife looking more woolly than usual in the fall, they may be gearing up for a particularly harsh winter. Most mammals do grow thicker fur as the temperatures drop, but if they look like they're wearing winter coats, it might be time to invest in a new coat for yourself.

  • If rabbits and squirrels look especially fat in the fall, they may be bulking up for a cold winter. Likewise, if you see squirrels burying nuts at a more furied pace than usual, that may be a sign. If you want to skip the gym a few times or enjoy an extra pumpkin spice latte, you can also claim you are bulking up for winter.

  • Mice and spiders always try to move in when temperatures start to drop, but if you're really battling to keep them out, it may be because they know bad weather is coming. Likewise, if spiders build larger webs than usual, it could be because they are trying to catch more food and fill their spider bellies for a coming cold snap.

  • How deep are the mole holes in your neighborhood? The old wives' tale is that if mole holes are deeper than 2.5 feet, a harsh winter is ahead. The shallower the holes, the milder the winter.

  • One old wives' tale says that every foggy August day equates to a day of snowfall in the coming winter. No large-scale studies have been done to prove or disprove this theory, but don't tell that to the old wives who swear by it.

  • If apple and other fruit trees produce more fruit than usual, a harsh winter may be in the forecast. The theory is that trees produce more food for animals, who will need it to survive heavy snow and cold temperatures. Also, producing additional fruit and seeds means the species will have a better chance of survival if trees are killed due to a particularly harsh winter.

  • Likewise, if oak trees are laden with acorns, or if pine trees are producing larger than normal pinecones, stock up on extra mittens.

  • Hickory nuts and walnuts have a hard shell and a "fruit" surrounding that shell. The story goes that the thicker the outer shell, the worse the winter will be. This theory extends to acorns and the thickness of their shells, and it could be nature's way of protecting the tree species during harsh weather.

  • Some people believe that the brighter the leaves are in the fall, the snowier and colder the coming winter will be. Once the days get shorter and the temperatures drop in the fall, the amount of chlorophyll in the leaves decreases, causing the changes in leaf colors we see in the fall.

  • According to folklore, you can predict winter weather by slicing a persimmon seed in half. A spoon shape means lot of heavy, wet snow to scoop. A fork means light, powdery snow and a milder winter. A knife means you'll be "cut" by cold, icy weather. Jefferson County, Missouri, Extension has studied the seeds for the past 17 years, and they've been accurate 13 of those years! (Photo: Univ. of Missouri Extension)

How bad will winter be? Try these old-school prognosticating methods!

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