Posted on 03 January 2012 by

Mother Nature’s Weather Forecasters

By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter

I have always looked toward nature as my predictor of the weather.

Learning the weather patterns of ones local area is very beneficial to gardeners.

It can help the gardener decide when to put the cold or cool season crops in and can provide some guidance as to fall and winter crops.

The key to this technique is knowing what to look for, when to look for it, and understanding what you see.


Wooly worms are famous as bad winter predictors. It is believed that if the caterpillar is solid black, the whole winter will be abnormally bad. On the other end of the spectrum, it is believed that if the caterpillar is brown or light brown this is an indication of a mild winter. Wooly worms have 13 sections and each section represents one week of the winter season. If the wooly worm is in bands of black and brown, this is an indication of a winter that is going to have a lot of changes.


In the fall, squirrels are busy collecting food for the winter. Some believe that the winter can be predicted by how actively the squirrels collect food. If they seem to be collecting like crazy, then it is believed that they are preparing for a bad winter. If they do not seem to be too worried about storing food, then the winter will be mild.

While there are some gardeners that live by this, I do not really follow this sign. It has been proven that the reason squirrel scamper to collect food is not because they are predicting a bad winter but instead they forget where they bury their food. The more food they bury in different places the better their chances are of finding the food.


Some plants have been used as weather predictors. Any tree or shrub that produces berries or nuts in the fall is viewed as a winter predictor. The principle behind this is that these plants will produce a lot of berries or nuts that contain seeds. If it is going to be a bad winter, the plant is ensuring its species survival by producing a lot of possible offspring. If the winter is going to be mild, it is believed that the plant will not put that much energy into producing future offspring.


Persimmon seeds have been used for years as a winter predictor. It is believed that the shape of the inside of the seed can determine the type of winter. If the inside of the seed is shaped like a knife, it is going to be a bitterly, cold winter. If the inside of the seed is shape like a spoon, it is going to be a winter with a lot of snow. If a fork shape appears on the inside, it is going to be a mild winter.


The common red-shelled ladybug, believe it on no, is 100 percent accurate in its winter weather prediction. It is not understood how this simple insect does it but its ability to be accurate is a matter of life and death.

The simplest way to understand what the ladybug is telling you is looking where they are going to in the fall. If you find them in the garden soil while you are doing your last garden cleanup, then it is going to be a mild winter. The soil temperature will be sufficient enough to carry them through the winter. If, on the other hand, you find them in your home, attic, shed or any other warm, sheltered area, then it is going to be a bad winter. The additional covering is crucial to their survival when the winds of a severe winter blow.

While I have used some of these techniques, the ladybug approach is a new one to me but I am going to try it. While I was out in the garden doing some cleanup I disturbed some ladybugs that had made home in the soil. This was a welcome site and with this information I began planting again in my garden space instead of closing it down for its winter slumber. Only time will tell if my ladybugs are accurate. If they are, I will enjoy some extra time in my garden. If they are not, the only thing I have lost is a little seed.

So until we blog again, open Mother Nature’s book of knowledge and comprehend the messages she is sending us. Some may be old wise tales while others may contain scientific fact. But planning our gardens by Mother Nature’s cycles makes us all better caretakers of the Earth and all that it abounds.

3 Responses to “Mother Nature’s Weather Forecasters”

  1. Greta Lint Says:

    I enjoyed your post. I, too, am a follower of Mother Nature to predict weather. So I was a little disappointed when I learned from my arborist that the number and size of acorns does not have anything to do with the upcoming winter. Instead, trees are cyclical. The tree spends tremendous energy to produce acorns. Trees will grow a very large acorn one year and a small one the next. The acorn size has nothing to do with snow. I love snow.

  2. Dani Says:

    In our neck of the woods, we call them wooly bears, but the weather lore is similar.

    Enjoyed the post!

  3. Nikki@TheCrunchyMarriage Says:

    Well, they left my bulbs alone this year, so maybe the squirrels were trying to tell me it was going to be a mild winter.

Leave a Reply

Recent Comments