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Where are the acorns?

CNN reports: Scientists baffled by mysterious acorn shortage:

Up and down the East Coast, residents and naturalists alike have been scratching their heads this autumn over a simple question: Where are all the acorns? Oak trees have shed their leaves, but the usual carpet of acorns is not crunching underfoot. In far-flung pockets of northern Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and other states, scientists have found no acorns whatsoever.

But closer reading reveals that it is lay people and amateur naturalists who are baffled, while scientists are not. Scientists are well aware that the oaks produce corn in cycles – bumper years followed by lean years. The cycles are quite regular, and can be used to predict outbreaks of Lyme Disease:

One of the notions put forward in the article was that abundance of acorns in one year leads to abundance of rodents (mostly white-footed mice and chipmunks) the next year, and abundance of ticks – thus Lyme Disease – the third year. Now, Ostfeld and collaborators have added several more years of data and performed a detailed analysis of a large (13 years) dataset that strongly suggests that their initial hunch was correct.


  1. #1 fullerenedream
    December 13, 2008


  2. #2 John Wesley
    December 13, 2008

    No big question here, only a case of people not really noticing what was happening in the past, 2 years ago our crop from 3 Burr oaks was way down, last year there were none from 2 tress and only a handfull from the third. This year the crop was back to normal, i have seen this many times in the past and surely will see it again a few time.

    Relax chicken-little, the sky is not really falling.

  3. #3 Anianna
    December 13, 2008

    I know these things often run in cycles and this is probably nothing to be concerned about. On the other hand, is it possible that the lack of acorns is related to the disappearance of honey bees in recent years?

  4. #4 Science Avenger
    December 13, 2008

    Where are the acorns? Obviously Barack Obama has them.

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

  5. #5 Scott
    December 13, 2008

    My oak never has any acorns. Of course, that could be due to the 672 squirrels who love in my tiny, 1/4 acre yard!

  6. #6 Joe B
    December 13, 2008

    No Acorns here in Southampton, NY this year. I have been waiting for the big Acorn fall and it didn’t happen this year!

  7. #7 sandy
    December 15, 2008

    I realize that things do run in cycles … but this year, NO acorns (central PA) – none that I’ve seen …NADA …
    (not a damn acorn!)

  8. #8 Chris
    December 16, 2008

    Here in the Chicago area we have had cycles like this the past 8 years. One year it is a carpet of acorns and the next hardly a trace. One year my wife and i filled a 25 gallon garbage can full of acorns – the next may be 1/4 of the way. Only live on a 1/4 arcre lot with 6 oaks. This year was back to normal.

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