Why are acorns so scarce this year?

Asked October 8, 2015, 4:21 PM EDT

Why are the oak trees not producing acorns this year? We live in a wooded area and have always had a bumper crop. Our hickory tree started dropping nuts very early but continued for two months. A relative in New York state told me acorns are very hard to find there as well.

Frederick County Maryland

1 Response

It has long been observed that oak trees produce varying numbers of acorns from year to year. The heaviest years are referred to as 'masting', or 'mast seeding'. The phenomenon is not fully understood, but some theories suggest that weather conditions 1,2 or even 3 years before a given acorn crop affect the level of productivity. It has also been noted that the level of productivity can cover a broad range of territory.
As you might suspect, this variation in acorn production has a dramatic impact on populations of animals that rely on acorns for winter survival.