There's been a lot of acorns around here this year and they could bring with them a huge problem soon.

You may not think much about acorns. They're like nature's Legos if you step on them barefoot and a lot of critters like to munch on acorns. But this has been a unique year for acorns, one that ecologists are calling a "mast year" because there's just been so many of them from hickory, oak, walnuts, and any other nut tree.

Like with a lot of stuff in nature, this has a domino effect. Murphy Westwood, VP of Science and Conservation at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, told NBC Chicago:

These acorns, they're incredibly nutritious, and all the critters that feed off of these – the chipmunks, the deer, the turkeys, the mice - will have bigger litters next year because they have a ton of food, a ton of nutrients and resources this year.

More animals around doesn't sound that bad right?

The "Critter Litter" Issue


The problem comes in with what happens to the animals. Westwood said that bigger "critter litters" in 2024 will lead to more ticks in 2025.

And because of that, you can get more tick-borne sicknesses, like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in Illinois, Lyme disease, and Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis, according to Mary Anderson, an Infection Control Manager with Edward-Elmhurst Health. Anderson told NBC Chicago:

Symptoms can include fever and chills, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, sometimes joint achesSome of those diseases also cause rash. Of course, Lyme disease is infamous for the bullseye rash. That's the ring formed around the site of the tick bite, but some of the other tick borne illnesses can cause more widespread rashes.

Of course, if you're going outside during tick season, wear long pants, sleeves, and wear insect repellant. Don't blame the trees for this mess, Westwood says that a "mast year" is actually a good thing.

To put it in perspective, one oak tree can drop 10,000 acorns.

That's a lot of mini-mammal snacks.

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