In an Acorn

by Michael R. Canfield on November 3, 2016

An amazing amount of biology can be contained in a single acorn. I was recently on a field trip with my biology of insects course to New Hampshire, and we stayed at the beautiful and historic Aldworth Manor. Along with being an incredibly scenic location for a wedding or musical performance, the more than 160 acres of property allowed us to study an array of insects. Alongside a path surrounded by oak trees we found a bed of acorns. When we cracked them open, we saw this:

And this is what was underneath…

It turns out that most acorns do not become oak seedlings. They are either eaten by small mammals or have insects, like this acorn weevil, eat them from the inside out. Once the weevil larva crawls out through a small hole in the acorn shell, other insects, such as Temnothorax ants can move in to the empty shell. Below you can see a later stage acorn with Temnothorax longispinosus inside along with its brood. The entire ant colony can live in a single acorn shell!