Woolly bear caterpillar

Closeup of woolly bear caterpillar. Photo courtesy Farmer's Almanac.

A groundhog predicts whether there will be an early spring. Predicting a harsh winter has far more indicators to rely upon. 

While we now have the National Weather Service and modern technology for prognostication, our ancestors relied upon portents from nature.

Here are 20 signs of a hard winter ahead from Cleveland weatherman Dick Goddard from the 1978 edition of Farmer's Almanac.

  • Thicker than normal corn husks.
  • Woodpeckers sharing a tree.
  • The early arrival of the snowy owl.
  • The early departure of geese and ducks.
  • The early migration of the monarch butterfly.
  • Thick hair of the nape of a cow's neck.
  • Heavy and numerous fogs during August.
  • Raccoons with thick tails and bright bands.
  • Mice chewing furiously to get into your home.
  • The early arrival of crickets on the hearth.
  • Spiders spinning larger-than-usual webs and entering the house in great numbers.
  • Pigs gathering sticks.
  • Ants marching in line rather than meandering.
  • Early seclusion of bees within the hive.
  • Unusual abundance of acorns.
  • Muskrats burrowing holes high on the river bank.
  • "See how high the hornet's nest, 'twill tell how high the snow will rest."
  • Squirrels gathering nuts early to fortify against a hard winter.
  • Frequent halos or rings around the Sun or Moon forecasts numerous snowfalls.
  • 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. Also, fuzzier-then-normal woolly bear caterpillars are said to mean that winter will be very cold.

List courtesy Farmer's Almanac

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