FAIRWAY, KS (KCTV) -- It finally feels like fall so it’s time for the “Acorn Theory.”
The “Acorn Theory” is a winter forecast based on the behavior and habits of our furry friends, the squirrels. Squirrels are known to stock up and store nuts for the winter. The theory goes, the more nuts squirrels store, the more it snows this winter. At least that’s the theory, somewhat steeped in science but really based on what happens in my backyard.
The “Acorn Theory” makes sense since nature has a way of taking care of its own. I noticed this a few years back when snowier winters always came after an abundance of acorns appeared on Red Oak Trees in my backyard. Naturally, it seemed nature produced the necessary amount of food for the nut gathering rodents.
Tree experts will tell you trees don’t predict the coming weather. Rather, the trees react to past weather conditions. 2019 is almost one of the top five wettest years on record. We’ve had more than 50-inches of rain so far this year in the Kansas City area, so it’s not surprising the White and Red Oak Trees produced a bumper crop of acorns this year.
And this year, a wet and mild summer may be producing bigger acorns and walnuts on area trees. Beefier acorns mean more meat for squirrels to munch. Fattening up for a frigid future?
The squirrel/acorn/nut relationship is basic economics. Supply and demand at work here. The trees are suppliers and the squirrels are demanders. But are the squirrels just bulking up for cold temperatures? Or are they burying nuts to dig up at a later date when nourishment is needed after a snowy, bitter cold stretch? The answer is, BOTH! Look around your yard and you’ll notice several half-eaten acorns.
Eat half the acorn, throw the other half away? This is where nature and the squirrels are in cahoots to make it all work out. The top half of the acorn is where all the nutrients a squirrel needs to make it through a long winter are located. They eat the meaty top half and discard the bottom half.
The bottom half, over time, germinates and sprouts a new acorn tree. Replenish the supply! Man, I love it when a plan comes together. There are lots of half eaten acorns out there folks! But there are also a lot of buried acorns out there too.
I can’t show you the buried acorns because, well they’re buried. But I can show you where some squirrels in Pennsylvania hid their crop. Check out this photo from a Pittsburgh NBC affiliate.
That’s right, the nuts are under the hood of a car. These squirrels won’t likely find these buried treasures, but most squirrels have an elephant sized memory. They remember where every nut is buried but only dig up a quarter of what they store. Sometimes squirrels will even dig fake holes just to throw off squirrely scavengers who try to steal their stash.
So, there are lots of acorns, the squirrels are eating lots of nuts and squirreling away lots of food. So without further ado, here is the 2019-2020 Winter Acorn Theory Forecast.
Some people like to look at persimmon seeds for their winter forecast. If seeds are spoon-shaped and look like shovels, that means lots of snows. If the seeds look like forks, then there will NOT be a lot of snow. And if the seeds look like knives? Well then, the cold wind will cut right through you. This picture of persimmon seeds was taken last year.
Other folklore forecasters rely on the Wooly Worm for winter prognosticating, the blacker the worm, the colder and harsher the winter. A lighter colored worm means a mild winter. Here’s a picture of a wooly worm I took in September.
There are other theories too. El Nino, La Nina and other long-range weather pattern predictors, but could the squirrels be on to something? Check back in March and we’ll know the answer.