Type your question here!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Who Stole All My Almonds?

Q. Our almond tree was full this year. However, half of our crop was eaten by something. The nuts are not ready yet. They are still green and so hard you would need a nutcracker to crack the shells open. My husband picked the rest of the almonds so we at least had something to enjoy. Any ideas as to what's eating the nut and cracking them open?

A. This is most likely ground squirrel harvesting. Technically I think they are called antelope ground squirrels and they are very common in southern Nevada. We find them typically at residences near or bordering the desert or large expanses of desert landscaping or open lots.
            In almond orchards ground squirrels can harvest an almond tree overnight. They are very active right now, chewing open the green, hard husk and taking the immature seed. Seeds right now are soft and sweet, not yet hardened. You will see lots of empty shells on the ground from these critters.
Empty almond husks at the bottom of the tree's canopy from ground squirrels
            Ground squirrels continue to feed on nuts throughout the season. When the husk splits open, they steal the nuts a lot faster and store them away somewhere. It is usually safer to harvest the nuts as soon as they split open and not leave them on the tree to dry.
Ground squirrel grape thievery
            I know that these little guys look cute but they can be real pests if they get out of control. They will also steal grapes right out of bunches. Bunches with stolen grapes look just like you think they might look, a bunch with grapes missing here and there on the outside of the bunch.
Antelope ground squirrel adding insult to injury
            Control is not easy nor is it any fun. In commercial orchards they frequently use poison bait to help control the population. There are other options such as trapping and relocation.
            Please be very careful when dealing with ground squirrels. It is rare but they can transmit the Plague from flea bites or bitten directly by the ground squirrel.
            Here is some very good information on ground squirrels from the University of California


  1. Liked the info on ground squirrels. I have seen missing almonds recently. There was a link at the bottom of the article that I could not get to work. Could you post a little more info so I can search for it? - Thank you - Diane

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. The two middle pics are from the UNCE orchard last week so they have been busy there! I fixed the broken link.

  3. I had five 3rd leaf cultivars produce two separate waves of nectarines in Phoenix. Low thrip damage noted. Just started to get soft to the squeeze. Both times overnight the entire trees stripped bare (not a great deal of fruit, but still, picked clean not like birds). I suspect ground squirrels or rats. Weirdly enough the peach trees are untouched as are the plums. Next year it will be interesting to see if they get past the tule.