Current Moon Phase

Waxing Crescent
15% of full

Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Signs of a Hard Winter

Signs of a Hard Winter

I am starting to get questions about signs of winter. While much of the country is baking in 100+ temps, the season is a changing. Last year in early July, I noticed an abundance of acorns dropping on my deck — I mean hundreds, and summer had just begun. I did a quick video which opened a North American wide discussion about what it meant.

The 2011 Farmers’ Almanac featured 15 signs of a hard winter. It is our belief that long before the creation of technology, animals and farmers had to make observations about what was happening around them in order to prepare for the upcoming winter. Here are two of the most popular:

- If there is an abundance of acorns and squirrels are seen gathering them early, it is a sign of a hard winter.

- Narrow orange band in the middle of the woolly bear caterpillar warns of heavy snow; fat and fuzzy caterpillars presage bitter cold.

So, last summer and fall, hundreds of people told us about the enormous drop of acorns — I mean just about everywhere. It could be heavy in one place and light elsewhere since all winters are not created equal. Last winter was severe in most of the places I heard about. So, what is in store this winter?? I have not seen acorns dropping thus far. But what are you seeing with acorns and caterpillars? If it is too early to tell, let me know what you think as we get into September.

66 comments

1 Mamma Morris { 07.29.14 at 9:08 pm }

July in Morris County (northern) NJ and tiny acorns are already falling. Seems like more and earlier than usual. Can’t walk on the driveway without shoes!

2 Victoria Lombardo { 07.29.14 at 7:22 am }

Seaford,Long Island- Everyday I find my yard & patio filled with fallen acorns from my Oak tree, soo annoying… Still trying to enjoy my summer here, but with twice the chore from it..

3 Jane { 07.28.14 at 9:19 am }

It’s July 28 here on Cape Cod and already the acorns are falling from my big oak tree. They are tiny–most are unopened with no nut showing–and measure 1/4″ in diameter.

4 Kelly OConnell { 07.25.14 at 10:13 pm }

It was raining acorns tonight in Saratoga Springs NY… bouncing off my deck and the driveway. 2 huge Oak trees near my deck. Absolutely, no wind and these acorns were just falling for about 2 hours 6:30-8:30 pm. Crazy… never seen anything like it!

5 Melissa { 07.24.14 at 10:45 am }

No acorns dropping yet in South Carolina, but they are on the trees already.

6 Michael Haven { 07.10.14 at 7:30 pm }

Red Oak is dropping acorns like I have not seen in thirty years. Usually see acorns from that tree in October. This is July. They are falling constantly and everywhere.

7 David Cash { 11.08.13 at 3:19 pm }

Not many acorns here in Northeast Georgia this year. Its been many years since I have seen so many squirrels looking for something to put away for the winter.. I think we are in for a hard winter!

8 Barbara { 10.02.13 at 3:24 pm }

Here at the Jersey Shore. My oak trees are raining giant acorns the size of colossal olives.

9 deb { 10.02.13 at 2:02 am }

I am in northern California in the foothills and we have some acorns but tons of cedar tree seeds…I have been here for 13 years and have never seen soo many…Does that mean anything?

10 Treaca { 09.29.13 at 5:59 pm }

I live in Rolla, Mo. I have alot of acorns dropping from my trees. I have noticed there are several black ones. They are very firm and look very healthly. Is this a sign of a hard winter?

11 Fonda { 09.23.13 at 10:47 am }

I live in Indiana and the apple trees are just full,I havent seen them like this in a very long time. I was wondering if this has anything to do with the coming winter.

12 Richard { 09.02.13 at 12:52 pm }

@Carol and anyone else that’s wondering- No, green acorns are normal. They are also supposed to separate from their caps on the tree. Acorns that fall with their caps tightly attached were dropped by the tree deliberately because of infestation.
This does make some sense, now that I think about it. Certainly here in MA we had the warmest winter in my lifetime in 2011-2012- we couldn’t have gotten more than 5″ of snow all winter. That year also had a historically low acorn yield. This year is going to be much heavier, so hopefully that’s a good sign. Looking forward to the cold.

13 Carol { 09.02.13 at 9:51 am }

A lot of green acorns are dropping today from my large oak in Concord NH. I can stand outside and just here them dropping and watch out they don’t land on my head. Is it bad that they are green without the caps and not brown with the caps that usually fall?

14 JA { 08.22.13 at 7:44 pm }

Change the subject from acorns to fuzzy caterpillars; we have no oak trees! But, we DO have LOTS of fuzzies of all colors! Dark with a yellow stripe on sides, pale yellow, golden brown , mostly black, and white. We live in north-central Kansas. My husband says snow;. My grandpa would have said cold. Comments, please.

15 michaelK { 07.21.13 at 10:50 pm }

It’s raining small acorns today here on Long Island. Today is July 21, 2013.
It did this last year, at this time, too.
I don’t have a good feeling about this, post Sandy 1, Sandy 2, and Nemo.
We’re still cleaning up and repairing.

16 Deb { 10.11.12 at 1:30 pm }

I have noticed black acorns dropping from my tree this year. They are well formed and firm, and do not look like they are diseased. Also the brown ones seem to have a deeper color than usual. I have never seen this before. Does this mean something is going on with the health of the tree or could it be a weather pattern? Is anyone else experiencing this?

17 P Ferraro { 10.10.12 at 8:45 pm }

Have always correlated heavy acorns with rough winter. Thie trees have been loaded this year and dropping continuously. Will be interesting to see if it continues to be a predictor.

Springfield, VA

18 Conni { 10.09.12 at 8:56 am }

Here in northern Wisconsin, we have an abundance of acorns in 2012–but haven’t seen many squirrels. The deer were actually in the driveway eating the acorns! The wooly caterpillar has a narrower band than some years (last year there was no band at all and we had a mild winter). Should be an interesting season upcoming!!

19 Ginger Smith { 09.23.12 at 5:21 pm }

In Maryland I haven’t noticed any wooley bears yet, but the acorns that have been falling in the last two weeks are huge- the biggest I have ever seen and very plentiful! The last few winters have been very mild in Maryland so I think we may be due for snow.

20 Stephanie M. { 09.21.12 at 6:07 pm }

Everywhere around my house is covered with acorns. Have been dropping for quite awhile. I have only seen two wooly bears and they were both solid black though.

21 Susan { 09.20.12 at 10:22 pm }

Lots of acorns falling in my back yard. More than usual. Glen Allen, Va

22 Tess { 09.19.12 at 11:33 pm }

oh yes.. a hard winter for sure, according to my friend who has nothing but oak trees in her yard.
The acorns have been dropping hard since before the 4th of July ! She said we better get ready. Posted from a 1/2 hour South of Boston!

23 Michelle Griggs { 09.14.12 at 9:10 pm }

Plethora of acorns falling nightly, non stop it sounds like rocks from the trees…. We live in New Hampshire, I have never heard anything like it. This is how I came across this page….I hear them all night long…they fall in groups. Why? What? I have lived here for 9 years, never heard anything like it! PLEASE tell me it isn’t true about the hard winter, I want no winter.

24 Niccole Peralta { 09.14.12 at 6:31 pm }

We have had a lot of acorns dropping, trees blooming early, trees blooming that have never bloomed this year. Not to mention we are having Bear sightings almost daily. Not sure what to make of it but if its usual to have that many sightings in my area.

25 sharon { 09.08.12 at 9:46 am }

I live in Ct . Since July 28th acorns have been dropping fast. My deck is full of them. Winter 2011 I needed a snow shovel to pick up the acorns. My thought is to batten down the hatches again for a cold winter.

26 Cheri { 09.07.12 at 8:53 pm }

Acorns are falling like mad here in central Florida in early September. If old wives tales are true, we are in for a hard winter.

27 terry { 09.05.12 at 2:44 pm }

No acorns falling in Hauppauge, LI. Mild winter….hope so.

28 HH { 09.04.12 at 2:07 pm }

Acorns have been dropping like crazy here in northern NJ for a couple weeks now. We are bombarded everyday cleaning up the deck & driveway it’ s hard to keep up. We watch the squirrels & chipmunks gathering their stash all day long…I think they know soething we don’t know!

29 jackie { 09.01.12 at 7:46 pm }

We live in south-west Ohio and the acorns are bombarding our house and have been for over a week now. Last summer our Shag Bark Hickory trees had almost no nuts and our winter was very mild, this year they were bending the branches and have already started to cover the ground? Squirrels started gathering mid-August.

30 Casey { 08.25.12 at 10:35 am }

I live in southern Massachusetts on the Rhode Island border. Since May I have been observing the squirrels they are in an overabundance digging up everything including my gardens to hide nuts. The number one complaint this summer has been the squirrels from my neighbors. At my family’s lake house on several occasions we thought they were doing target practice with the acorns we had to move into the screen house or the house to get away from them. I’m amazed of how many acorns we have at the lake this year. I’ve also been observing our birds at the birdfeeders and I refill almost on a daily basis. Last year I refilled a couple of times a week. I’m hoping for a snowy winter we need to replenish our water tables and it would be nice to go snowmobiling.

31 Jonathan Saunders { 08.25.12 at 2:03 am }

I live in northern Virginia and the acorns are falling like crazy and they green and yellow. They are a pain at night when they hit the gutters. Since they are falling in August and they are not ripe does this mean its going to be a harsh and snowy winter?

32 Elizabeth { 08.10.12 at 6:44 pm }

I had a crazy end of last year weather with a tropical storm in August, A freak snowstorm in October and no acorns not even one and a warm winter to boot sooo now this year in July I already have acorns and seeing squirials around I wonder if we will have a bad winter like we had the year prior to last year?

33 Regina { 07.30.12 at 10:29 pm }

I hope everybody sees some signs this fall. I do not want another warm winter. We have acorns dropping and squirrels are gathering their nuts beside our trees and there are very very large spider webs. Am I seeing signs of a harsh winter ahead? (northeast resident) and leaves are changing kinda early. red, yellow, orange leaves are starting to show up. Is Maine getting any signs yet?

34 mountiangirl { 07.18.12 at 10:05 am }

As i for one do believe in this as i am the daughter of a farmer and we learned by watching the catipillars,and even watching our cows just things you learn to pick up so i am a firm believer in this.

35 Emily { 07.13.12 at 10:14 am }

I live in the lower midwest, I have plenty of maple trees around the house. Im starting to notice that the trees are now producing acorns. Im seeing alot of squirrel activity. I already have some little acorns falling and its not even the middle of July yet but as we progress into August and the acorns grow to be really big and start falling then I guess that will be a sign of a hard winter. Is early acorn production an indication to a harder winter on us this year? last year we barely had any acorns. We had tiny ones fall here and there but thats it. Come on Mother Nature, im counting on you to bring me winter

36 Jaime McLeod { 07.10.12 at 10:32 am }

Kristi, There are many different species of caterpillars. A solid black one, or any color except brown with an orange stripe, is not a true woolly bear.

37 kristi { 07.06.12 at 10:39 pm }

Hi, I live in Tennessee and I just seen two solid black wooly bears a week a part…does this mean we are in for a bad winter? and also the squirrels and ants are also doing strange things already…what does this mean? please help.. thanks

38 Cathy H. { 12.17.11 at 11:56 am }

I live in the Northern Shenandoah Valley. I am beginning to think that nature signs are not always reliable. We had a freak snowfall just before Halloween but nothing but rain since. We have had a bumper crop of acorns and black walnuts and I also saw a woolly worm (bear) like the one pictured above. The temps in November and most of this month have been relatively mild. Farm animals are still grazing green grass. So I have my doubts this winter is going to be that bad.

39 Rick { 11.22.11 at 7:28 pm }

Norwalk, CT. The last 4 yrs I’ve been predicting the winter with acorn counts. For example: fall 2010, we had literally hundreds of pounds, many 5 gln buckets full of acorns and had the snowyist winter in 40 yrs. This fall (2011) – we can count the acorns on two hands: time to sell the snowblower?

40 RGJ { 11.09.11 at 11:17 am }

11/09/11 First Snow in Kirksville MO…no tracking….these past few weeks….birds hitting the bird feeders hard…squirrels gorging themselves full of nuts…lookout Old Man Winter is on his way….

41 Naomi { 10.24.11 at 1:27 am }

I live in Southern Alabama. The strangest thing I saw this year was the pecan trees dropping green pecans! This is not the year for pecans! The year for pecans is next year. I have never seen green ones drop and this happened in early September! I have also seen a lot of activity with the squirrels.

42 Jill { 10.20.11 at 10:33 am }

We live just outside Madison WI. The woolly bear caterpillars are very fat and fuzzy. The oaks are dropping acorns in such abundance that the mower slides as if it were on marbles under the oak trees. The squirrels are very busy gathering and burying. The squirrels also have very thick, bushy tails. Our pet rabbit went thru an extreme shed this year in august – losing hair almost to baldness on his flanks. Our garden is still producing and putting out seed bearing fruits like mad…

43 Ann { 10.18.11 at 4:43 pm }

I live in Atlanta and my back yard is adsolutely covered in acorns, brown and green ones. I’ve never seen anything like this here in 52 years. What
‘going on?

44 HWK { 10.15.11 at 9:15 am }

I live in upstate NY just north of Albany. Saw a few woolly bear caterpillars the other day and their middle bands are quite wide…the black ends are small. Not noticing too many acorns on the ground whereas last year they were plantiful. Last year we had over 100″ in the winter season. Maybe these are good signs for a milder winter to come.

45 Paula { 10.10.11 at 4:13 am }

I live in Denmark and I’m pretty sure that we’ve got a lot more acorns falling this year. Many of the chestnut trees are also almost bare now and have long since dropped their chestnuts. Last year i didn’t notice it even though we did have a really harsh winter, but this year I have a 2 year old who collects nuts wherever he goes… will keep an eye out for the squirrels.

46 Wellington H. Lemmer { 09.16.11 at 6:59 pm }

I live in Millstadt Illinois I have observed wooly bears fat and sassy with a medium, size rust colored ban. It is 2011-09-15 and it was so cold that I toyed with the idea of furnace to take off the chill. This years weather is the strangest I have seen in 55+ years that I remember. I think we better be prepared this year.

47 Blake { 09.16.11 at 12:11 pm }

I can feel the extra coldness within my bones, Sleep is out of sequence, May it be the Land has been judged for the Evil who chose not to believe, there is only One?
This Earth and The Seas, is the ultimate gift of All of Our lives.
~ Blake ~

48 Cleveland Mann { 09.12.11 at 7:25 pm }

My place is in the mountains of western North Carolina… The dropping of the acorns sound like golf balls falling when they hit. It was the same as last year… It seems like our days and nights are unusually cool for this time of year. Early snow, maybe?

49 Cornelia { 09.12.11 at 3:06 pm }

I live in central Illinois and I noticed acorns dropping on our patio since July. Thought this strange as the temps were higher than normal and fall was months away. The acorns are the biggest ones I’ve seen too. Beautiful and healthy looking. This is our first year at this property so I have no prior years to compare too.

50 Sue { 09.12.11 at 10:41 am }

We live 1 hr north of Madison WI; have been seeing birds flocking for several wks now and can see through the woods now growth where the leaves have already dropped in the low so fall is moving in quickly. When you see the birds gather in large number on telephone wires, within 24h will have a large storm coming from the direction they are facing-oh, and if they are fighting on the ground for food-SEVERE snow or ice storm within 12hrs! Squirrels have been searching already for acorns-we have lots of oaks but not too many falling so far, which is a good thing so maybe not so severe a winter as last yr in our area but- the dog is shedding wildly the last wk or two so not sure about all this yet.

51 Linduh { 09.11.11 at 1:23 am }

Our local mouse population have not failed us yet on advising us what kind of winter we will experience. Last year, they began to search for food in our pantry around the end of August, which is early. Typically, the mice search for food around late September. Last winter was much colder than the previous winters.
This winter should come early and should also be cold, if not colder. My husband spotted a mouse in late JULY! I thought he was pulling my leg! I inspected the pantry and found some droppings. I gave out a big sigh, knowing what an early search of food meant for us. I hope, this time, the mouse is wrong.

52 Curt { 09.10.11 at 7:44 pm }

I have a Maple tree in my front yard. I have been curious as to why it was dropping leaves as if Fall in the middle of Summer. Not real heavy, but certainly different than all the other Summers.

53 sarah godfrey { 09.08.11 at 2:48 pm }

Just saw an all orange wooley bear in NH. Wonder what that means…..

54 Kevin { 09.06.11 at 7:20 pm }

Looks like we are going to have alot of wet fluffy snow in central Indiana. We checked 11 persimmon seeds and had 7 spoons and 4 knives. Get your shovels out Hoosiers, From Kevin, Dawn, Tera.

55 Elizabeth Ashley { 08.31.11 at 12:36 pm }

Were seeing off white catipillars,what does this mean?

56 Jeanette Lohrbach { 08.30.11 at 7:33 pm }

‘The Long Winter’ took place in De Smet, Dakota Territory – South Dakota.

57 Kristi Goodman { 08.25.11 at 4:31 pm }

I forgot to add that I live in the black hills of SD……not sure if that makes a difference or not!

58 Kristi Goodman { 08.25.11 at 4:30 pm }

This last week (Aug. 21-Aug. 26) we have had THOUSANDS of crickets! They are every where! I have never seen so many in such big groups. Any idea what it means??

59 laura { 08.25.11 at 12:39 pm }

I live in the Great Lakes region and from what I have seen,,of caterpillars ,,almost non-existent,,doesn’t mean anything though. Here I was told by a farmer that I know that if I see a spiderweb and a lot of them,,look at their webs,,,if it’s almost complete and a “normal” finished web it can be a hard winter. The web(s) from each spider will look “normally complete” if it may be a hard winter and the amount of webs and spiders and right now and 3/4 of the way through the summer was many spiders and so far two had complete webs.

60 Rhonda { 08.24.11 at 7:09 pm }

We live in Alabama and have also noticed the chipmunks and squirrels gathering earlier than usual.We had our first white Christmas last year and have had some of the older people tell of some of the signs already showing of another hard winter.And that it is coming early so might need to break out the winter clothes and start getting ready huh.Pull out the electric blankets people ……

61 Jeanette Lohrbach { 08.24.11 at 1:00 am }

‘The Long Winter’ by. Laura Ingalls Wilder is an excellant example of signs of a bad winter. One must remember after reading this story, our Native Americans taught our farmers how to read these natural signs.
Now the book mentions the winter of 86/87, however, her biography states that it was the winter of 80/81. Ever since reading this story as a child, I have always enjoyed watching the weather and the seasons changing.

62 RhondaLynn { 08.21.11 at 3:56 pm }

This is a correction to my prior posting, The Nanny on “Nanny and The Professor” had made a prediction as according to tree frogs; in weather or not it would rain. The episode: “The Scientific Approach”

63 RhondaLynn { 08.21.11 at 3:31 pm }

In this time and change of my life, having just re-located to the state in which my daughter practices speech pathology, I’ve been watching old classic tv shows. One being, “The Nanny and The Professor”~ http://www.hulu.com. The Nanny makes a prediction as accordingly to the behavior of the squirells outside. I believe the episode is called, “The Human Element”.

As Peter mentions in the article about technology and how animals and human beings had to rely on their instincts, I think about how so many people are relying on gadgets such as the car navigation system. I yet rely on my God-given instincts, and try to use my brain as much as possible. I believe I navigate best that way!

64 Jerri { 08.15.11 at 5:05 pm }

Squirrels have been unusually busy here (South Arkansas) even in the extreme heat which has had me wondering. We had a heavy acorn drop last year and though the winter could have been much worse (ice) we had more freezing temperatures than we had been experiencing in several years. I am worried about this winter. The drought has really stressed all the trees completely out. All we need now is a major ice storm to really do them in and bring them down.

65 ricky dialessi { 08.15.11 at 1:33 pm }

i saw hundreds of millions of acors dropping early in july at my boy scout summercamp worcomen in conneticut and i saw the orange band and the caterpiller was very fluffy and fat so watch out i thing it will be a very bad winter worse than last year horrible

66 JC { 08.15.11 at 11:59 am }

I live in Northen Arizona, we have noticed the dogs have been trying to put on heavier coats than normal for this time of year – winter coats, and heavier than usual.The squirrels and chipmunks are busy storing food, the trees are “burning out” weeks earlier than usual. The old timers here say it looks like a hard cold winter is on its way and expect it to arrive earlier than usual too. After last winter it time to start replacing weather strips and caulk in case they are right.

Leave a Comment

Note: Comments that further the discussion of the above content are likely to be approved. Those comments that are vague or are simply submitted in order to promote a product, service or web site, although not necessarily considered "spam," are generally not approved.

If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1910, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.