The weather forecast from animals and insects

Photo by Sacha BurnsAnthills can serve as a predictor of rain.

There is nothing more wonderful than being outside early in the day, just after morning’s first light to fell the stillness all around you.

Every morning I go out to feed the animals, and my set of bucks are pastured a little bit into the woods. It is perfect because: A) Billy goats tend to be smelly and B) they have ample shade from the trees which also serve as a buffer from the wind. Since they sit a bit further out, I can have a nice peaceful walk every morning —granted it goes a lot quicker on rainy days.

Most days the weather is nice, the birds are singing sweetly and most of the woodland creatures — the deer, the squirrels and occasionally the fox — will go about their morning without realizing that I am out in their world enjoying their presence. Yes, even the fox, although I do tend to give him a lecture regarding why he shouldn’t eat my chickens.

It is amazing all the things you can notice in this short amount of time. I take note of which birds are all around, and most of all I try to watch the insects. Animals and bugs are great sources of weather prediction in my world.

Have you ever noticed when you mow the grass that birds will tend to swoop down in the areas around you? They’re probably trying to catch the insects that are being stirred up. However, if you are outside and not mowing and see that the insects are flying low, most likely the pressure is low which happens when the chance for bad weather increases.

Another old folklore insect weather observation is when bees crowd out of their hives the weather around will be good, but when bees crowd into their hives it is usually a sign or thunder and rain to come. If you notice that animals, such as squirrels that tend to spend all day gathering their acorns, are retreating to their nests and heading for shelter, then you may want to as well. And if you pay attention the next stormy day, you will notice that before a thunderstorm all the birds will go quiet. Which personally gets my attention as a way of reminding me to go indoors.

Another is that crickets chirp faster when it's warm and slower when it's cold. There is an actual scientific method behind this called Dolbear’s Law. If you count a cricket’s chirps for 14 seconds and then add 40, it will give you an approximate temperature reading. This was figured out back in the late 1800s.

Did you know that “When ladybugs swarm, you can expect a day that’s warm”? Ladybugs are cold-blooded which means their activity level depends on the temperature. They will not fly if the temperature goes below 55 degrees, however they hibernate in the winter. This doesn’t apply to the orange Asian lady bugs that we see so often in the fall. Look for the red ones to gage this weather tip.

One that I notice more and more as the summer goes on is that spiders tend to leave their webs before it rains. It seems about July is when the spiders have webs strung from tree to tree and anything in between. Spiderwebs on their own are quite a work of art, so I find myself checking in on them while I am out checking on all the animals. When I see that a web is empty, I mentally note that I should start finishing up anything that needs done before the rain comes.

Plants can help you learn about the weather as well. I always remember my dad telling me to watch the trees before a storm. If the weather is going to change and storms are coming the leaves on a tree will look as though they have flipped over.

However, the creatures I am most fascinated in watching are the ants outside. I had an old neighbor that told me to take notice when ants build their anthills higher. He also taught me to keep an eye on the size of the hole of the entrance. It was said that the height of the anthill would be how much rain to expect, and the size of the hole would predict how large the drops would be. So the other day when I was out in the yard, I noticed the abundance of anthills. So of course, I took it as a sign of rain coming, which as it happens the storms arrived before noon that day.

Next time you are outside and looking for a quiet moment to take it all in, watch how many of these simple things you end up noticing that we all tend to typically overlook. With the technology today I can pull up the weather forecast in seconds, which I still do. But it is nowhere near as fun as when you realize that the animals and insects have figured it all out on their own.

 

Sacha Burns is an organic gardener and owner of Sunkissed Organics in Pinola. She may be reached at sachabrittburns@yahoo.com.

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