The wooly worm and other harbingers of potential winter weather
by Justin McGill, General Manager --
Jul 24, 2013 | 708 708 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sunday afternoon, there was a big, all-black wooly worm on my front porch. Winter is coming.

(Hi, George R.R. Martin fans!)

Don’t count me among those who put much stock in such folklore. Until that worm stands upright and, speaking plain English, tells me that another harsh round of ice and snow is on the way, I remain unconvinced.

Such old wive’s tales are common around here. I’ve written in this space before about my in-laws and their annual New Year’s Day tradition of eating black-eyed peas, cornbread and cabbage in the name of good health and prosperity. Alas, they have yet to hit Powerball.

Not that small-town Southerners are the only ones who live – ironically or otherwise – by such codes. Punxsutawney Phil, the weather-predicting groundhog of Pennsylvania, draws a crowd each Feb. 2 as, so the theory goes, his acknowledgement (or lack thereof) of his own shadow indicates an early Spring or a prolonged Winter. Records indicate his accuracy since 1887 stands around at 39 percent.

The wooly worm, however, holds a higher 80 percent claim, according to some surveys. (Aside: Can you imagine being paid to keep track of the accuracy of a wooly worm’s weather predictions? Sign me up.)

I’m publishing this observation now because I’m sure to forget about it later, and once winter comes, I’m now more likely to remember what I saw and can decide if the worm is an omen or just crazy, random happenstance. I’d certainly be interested to hear from any readers who have seen other potential harbingers, as well.

In the meantime, let’s look at a few other pieces of supposed weather-predictive folklore.

Persimmon seed

Here’s one I’d not heard of until recently. According to legend, the shape of the kernel inside a persimmon is another indicator of what type of winter is to come. Find a locally-grown, persimmon and look inside. If the kernel is shaped like a spoon, expect lots of heavy, wet snow; fork-shaped, and there’ll be powdery, light snow and a mild winter; knife-shaped indicates icy, cutting winds.


Animals growing thicker fur or pets storing more fat than usual has long been considered warning of a colder winter. Early bird migration or rodent infestation might indicate an early winter.


Jimmy Hart, our ad sales rep, reports an increase in the number of walnuts falling from trees on his property. Others will tell you that larger pine cones and brighter foliage in the fall could mean winter weather will be severe.

Maybe, just this one time, I’ll keep an eye out for all of these. Since I’ve noticed the worm, it’ll be interesting to see if any of the other bits of lore fall in line.

Not that it matters, really. Folks around here buy groceries out of milk, bread and canned items any time the temperature hits 40, so if I wait until it’s 30 to start preparing, I’ll be out of luck anyway.

Justin McGill is general manager of The Cadiz Record and can be reached by email at
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