A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

6 Bizarre Things That Happen When It’s About to Storm

Even when you can't find a weather report, nature gives its own signs that a downpour is on its way.

1 / 6
storm is coming

Tree leaves turn over

This old wives tale is actually valid. Before a storm hits, the humidity usually skyrockets, which makes the leaf stems on trees that drop their leaves in autumn go limp. Without their usual rigidity, those leaves show their undersides when the wind rustles them.

2 / 6
Macro side view of the front of the large light, fluffy moth with krylmi Caucasian, legs, head, eyes, antennae squatting on a green blade of grass

Bugs get less frisky

When barometric pressure drops before the rain, bugs lose interest in mating, according to a study in PLoS ONE. Researchers looked at the mating behavior of different bug species—cucurbit beetles, potato aphids, and true armyworm moths—and all three species had similar reactions. When it felt like it was going to rain, the females put out fewer mating signals, and the males didn’t react as strongly to their pheromones. The bugs would still have sex if they were put near each other, but they’d get it over with quickly instead of going through their full mating rituals.

3 / 6
bird and dramatic clouds

Birds might flee

In 2013, scientists tracking golden-winged warbler migrations were confused when the birds suddenly fled the Tennessee mountains, each traveling solo rather than in a flock. There was a storm brewing 560 miles away, but there was seemingly nothing that could have clued them in—the wind speeds, precipitation, and atmospheric pressure hadn’t changed. After the storm passed, the birds came back. Researchers figure the birds can sense sounds that are too low for humans to hear. Check out these other 22 things you didn’t know about thunderstorms.

4 / 6
Storm clouds

The air’s scent changes

It’s not just in your head—there really is a certain smell in the air before the rain hits. That fresh scent you detect is coming from the ozone. As a storm approaches, the downward draft of air pushes ozone molecules closer to the ground, where they reach your nose. Did you know that the air also becomes hotter than the sun when lightning strikes? It’s true! Check out other weird lightning facts that you never knew about.

5 / 6
Close up view of the working bees on honeycells.

Bees work extra hard

Research from Jiangxi Agricultural University suggests that bees can predict when it’s going to rain and stock up on food to prepare. The scientists tracked 300 honeybees for more than a month and found something interesting: The day before it rained, the bees worked later than usual, likely to stock up on food because they don’t like to leave when it’s pouring.

6 / 6
scared brown labrador puppy lying on the floor

Dogs get nervous

If your dog is scared of thunderstorms, it might start acting out even before the storm hits. Vets suspect that dogs can predict bad weather because they sense changes in the atmosphere’s pressure, hear low-frequency thunder rumbles before humans can, or feel static electricity. Those changes can freak dogs out, and your pet might hide, claw, or pace earlier than you’d expect. Find out more about why dogs freak out during thunderstorms.

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s Medscape.com and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.