By Kathy Niver, Awards Committee Chairperson
Two years ago we had an unprecedented acorn fall – also known as a ‘mast year’ for acorns. You may recall it was like walking on marbles wherever an oak tree lived.
I’m an avid listener of Margaret Roach’s podcast and her guest at the time, Dr. Rick Ostfeld, a disease ecologist from Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York discussed how a robust acorn drop initiates a complex series of ecological chain reactions. And not just in the obvious ways, like feeding turkeys, chipmunks or deer, but in influencing Gypsy moth outbreaks and tick-borne disease risk, and even the reproductive success of ground-nesting songbirds.
One thing I learned is that rodents store these nutritious nuggets for winter food. Because food was plentiful the winter of 2015-16, more litters than usual were born and survived. That seemed evident by the number of chipmunks I encountered in 2016 on the many properties I maintain. Chipmunks weren’t the only beneficiaries of the acorns; white-footed mice (carriers of deer ticks with Lyme disease) also procreated at a high rate. This means last year we had lots of mice delivering ticks resulting in a higher than average incidence of Lyme disease for this season. It would be wise for gardeners, and all who enjoy the outdoors, to take extra precautions this year to prevent from contracting Lyme disease.
To hear Margaret Roach’s entire conversation with Dr. Rick Ostfeld, visit: http://awaytogarden.com/the-acorn-connections-with-dr-rick-ostfeld-ticks-gypsy-moths-songbirds-and-more/