Woolly caterpillar

This Woolly Caterpillar might offer clues to how harsh this winter will be in Idaho County.

Before there were weather apps for the smartphone, Doppler radar, or the National Weather Service, our ancestors looked to the signs from nature to prepare for what’s to come. These were passed down from generation to generation and were recently shared by Farmers’ Almanac as bits of weather “folklore.”


In the 1978 edition of the Farmers’ Almanac, they shared Cleveland’s weather guru Dick Goddard’s laundry list of 20 signs of nature that can predict a harsh winter ahead -- and this can still be relevant today.

So, according to folklore, here are the signs of a hard winter to come:

1. Thicker-than-normal corn husks.

2. Woodpeckers sharing a tree.

3. The early arrival of the Snowy Owl.

4. The early departure of geese and ducks.

5. The early migration of the Monarch butterfly.

6. Thick hair on the nape of a cow’s neck.

7. Heavy and numerous fogs during August.

8. Raccoons with thick tails and bright bands.

9. Mice chewing furiously to get into your home.

10. The early arrival of crickets on the hearth.

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.

16. Muskrats burrowing holes high on the river bank.

17. “See how high the hornet’s nest, ‘twill tell how high the snow will rest.”

18. Squirrels gathering nuts early to fortify against a hard winter.

19. Frequent halos or rings around the sun or moon forecasts numerous snowfalls.

20. And last but not least, a true reader favorite: the size of the orange band on the Woolly bear (or Woolly worm) Caterpillar. According to folklore, if the 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 bears. And fuzzier-than-normal woolly bear caterpillars are said to mean that winter will be very cold.

It should be noted that the Farmers’ Almanac does not rely on weather lore, but rather it uses a mathematical and astronomical formula to make its long-range weather predictions.

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