Dripping in the morning sun, the ice melts off of these cranberries growing in West Barnstable. But don’t let the sun shine fool you, the air still has a cold bite to it that is only sharpened by the wind. Much unlike the past few weeks with temperatures across the region climbing and the air bursting with the smells and sounds of Spring. Trees, shrubs, and flowers have, all seemed to taken advantage of these growing degree days and are blooming earlier than ever before. Michael S. Dosmann, Curator of Living Collections at the Arnold Arboretum, called this years blossoming one of the earliest in 140 years of record keeping.
Insects that we don’t normally see for another month or so are out in full force. Migratory birds are showing up well ahead of time. Not just a few odd balls either, but they all seem to be breaking from their routine arrival times. Pollen counts are way above normal for this season and according to the National Weather Service, over the past couple of weeks, well over 4,000 high-temperature records have been broken across the country. Bottom line-things are crazy!
It’s not just the earliness of this spring that has gardeners and scientists scratching their heads, but it’s the peculiarity of it. “Things seem to be out of sync in so many ways”, says Larry Dapsis, entomologist at the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension. The expected rhythm and routine of spring seems to be writing a slightly different song this year.
The main concern at this point for many is the sudden plunge into the 20’s that we’ve been experiencing in recent evenings. A cold snap at this point could really do some damage. Early tree buds and blossoms could be killed and there is a bit of concern for all of the pollinators that have made an early appearance. While this is true, the loss of early growth really might not be the greatest hurdle face our trees and plantings. There are many parasitic insects that may have more than one or two generations this year because of the early, warm start they’ve received. Think about it, with as many Pitch Pine that are succumbing to Pine Bark Beetles here on Cape Cod each year, what would it do to our forests to have not just two generations but three. That would mean quite a few more dead trees. In the last couple of years we have seen Lecanium Oak Scale proliferate all over Cape Cod from the trees already being weakened by the Winter Moth Caterpillars. With the jump start they have on growing degree days this year, who knows how bad the infestation will get?
An just imagine the tick epidemic we are already seeing here and on the islands. Well the ticks never even died off this winter, and now it’s Spring already. A few cold nights won’t hinder their numbers too much I think.
So why is the weather so wacky this year? Why did this previous year give us so many “unprecedented” disaster storms, and why is this year already on an unusual coarse? Many ideas are circulating but who can say for sure. One thing is for sure; we should be prepared for an anything but “normal ” year.