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End of days?

Ummm.... is this one of those things we’ll look back at and say, “uhh, yup! That should have been the warning sign.”
“Botanist Rod Simmons thought he was going crazy when couldn’t find any acorns near his home in Arlington County, Virginia. ‘I’m used to seeing so many acorns around and out in the field, it’s something I just didn’t believe,’ said Simmons. Then calls started coming in about crazy squirrels. Starving, skinny squirrels eating garbage, inhaling bird feed, greedily demolishing pumpkins. Squirrels boldly scampering into the road. And a lot more calls about squirrel roadkill. Simmons and Naturalist Greg Zell began to do some research and found Internet discussion groups, including one on Topix called ‘No acorns this year,’ reporting the same thing from as far away as the Midwest up through New England and Nova Scotia. ‘We live in Glenwood Landing, N.Y., and don’t have any acorns this year. Really weird,’ wrote one. ‘None in Kansas either! Curiouser and curiouser.’ The absence of acorns could have something to do with the weather and Simmons has a theory about the wet and dry cycles. But many skeptics say oaks in other regions are producing plenty of acorns, and the acorn bust is nothing more than the extreme of a natural boom-and-bust cycle. But the bottom line is that no one really knows. ‘It’s sort of a mystery,’ Zell said.”
I’m not into conspiracy theories and I’m not a doomsayer, but this kind of thing sounds like the great first chapter of a book about the world falling apart.

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Our oaks in California seem healthy & robust, with lots of acorns... so far.

As someone with a woods full of oak trees, I can honestly say that we notice the production of acorns to be cyclical. Some years you get a ton (usually dry years) and others, none or close to it. I read nothing into it other than the tree puts them out when the time is right.

This might be more of a problem if acorns were the sole source of food for squirrels. I don't think this is the dawn of another silent spring so much as part of a natural cycle.

(While I do think that we haven't been as kind to the earth as we could be, there are natural cycles of feast and famine, populations expansion and contraction.)

FWIW, where I am in central NJ, we seem to have *too many* of the nasty buggers.

Plenty of acorns here in New England.

Maybe all these nutters have a good yard service?

The reason up here there are a lot of squirrels this year is that the heavy snow cover this past winter protected most rodents from predators, and also caused many predators to starve over winter. We also have a deer population explosion as a result. Not to mention that it was a banner summer for ticks.

It's a cyclical thing that oaks do to reduce the squirrel population. They have a bust year, squirrels die back, and then in subsequent years there's more chance of acorns being lost and growing up to be oak trees.

It's one of the classic examples of reproductive strategies of the plant kingdom.

Yeah, that sounds like a better explanation than my "yard service invasion" theory. ;)

"Some tree species, such as oaks and hickories, produce large seed crops at irregular intervals of 3 to 12 years. Seed production in these species is often synchronous over large regions (Koenig et al. 1996). This type of reproductive strategy is called masting, and though efforts have been made to determine the evolutionary significance of masting, no one theory has yet been able to account for this phenomenon (Janzen 1969, Silvertown 1980, Sork 1993). "


In related news, we have an outbreak of Asian Longhorned Beetle in hundreds of maples in and around Worcester, MA, within miles of uninterrupted hardwood forests where it could cause a big, big problem.

I think New Jersey is battling this beetle as well. Not good.

I haven't noticed any discarded shells from my hickory nut tree this season. I figured it was just me not being very observant. I'm starting to wonder if it would be appropriate to put out some sort of feeder or something. Normally I keep my nose out of natural cycles as much as possible on the assumption that Nature is generally smarter about such things than I am. But I don't want squirrels trying to get into my house to find food either.

Squirrels are always a good start to any apocalyptic story, IMO.

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