Storing Food for the Winter (How to Hoard)

squirrel eating bird seed
Squirrel eating from the feeders in my garden. Photo by Donna L. Long.


The Two Ways of Storing Food or Hoarding

There are two kinds of storing food for the winter. Scatter-hoarding and larder-hoarding. To be hungry in the cold of late autumn and winter is a scary thought. Two-leggeds (humans) and other-than-humans (animals) have devised many ways to have a enough food to last until the fresh and more abundant food of spring.

Scatter-hoarding involves spreading food items in many hiding places. We see this when we watch quarrels bury nuts in many locations. I see it when forgotten or ignored sunflower seeds pop up in odd places in my garden.

To cache food is to store it or hide it for future use. Humans cache food. I know I do. As we learn about the ways in which animals store food, keep it mind it is how they preserve food. Animals may not can but they do dehydrate and freeze.


Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) eating peanuts
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) eating peanuts. Photo taken Fort Washington State Park by Donna L. Long

Blue Jays also scatter-hoard small acorns in a wide area up to one mile away.

Then there is larder-hoarding

Larder-hoarding is placing all the food items in one place. Chipmunks do this. Chipmunks must be able to defend or hide their food store so others can’t find them.

A chipmunk digging in the soil. Photo by Donna L. Long.
A chipmunk digging in the soil. Photo by Donna L. Long.

When I watch squirrels collecting sunflower seeds to bury, I notice the squirrel removes the shells first. I thought this was odd. Wouldn’t the seed keep better if the protective coating was on it?
Nuts such as hickory nuts and red-oak acorns are good for stored food because they are dormant seeds. Just by their genetic makeup these large seeds aren’t scheduled to germinate until the following spring. But, by that time, the animal has eaten what it needs.

mammals_Female Eastern Gray Squirrel in my garden eating sunflower seeds.
Female Eastern Gray Squirrel in my garden eating sunflower seeds.

What I have since learned about squirrel nut-burying behavior, is that squirrels also remove the fragrant husks from hickory nuts before burying them. I guess this is to keep nut-stealing animals from sniffing out fragrant sunflowers and eating the squirrel’s store.

Eastern Gray Squirrel in maple tree. Photo by Donna L. Long.

Acorn Woodpeckers (Melanerpes formicivorus) band together and larder-hoard (cache) acorns in communal stores called granaries. The granaries are holes drilled by the woodpeckers in trees, telephone poles or fence posts. The birds fill, use, and defend the granaries as a group. Granaries have been found with more than 60,000 stored acorns. More about Acorn Woodpeckers on All About

8 Creative Ways Animals Store Food

Watch the video below to learn ways animals store food, some ways left me speechless. A shout out to the SciShow for creating this great video.


Humans Hoard Food For Winter, Too

Some many of us preserve food for the winter. I can, dry, and freeze food I grow, forage, or buy.  I larder-hoard. I forage for Black Walnuts. How do you preserve food for the winter? Share in the comments below. Thanks.


Autumn in the Natural World

Autumn in the Natural World makes complex processes easy to understand, to the wonders of the autumn season. In easy to understand language the essential natural processes of the changing colors of leaves, why trees shed leaves, and how a pond can still freeze and still support life are explained. Learn the key star constellation which signals the end of summer and the growing season. Learn why the moon’s of autumn loom so large in the night sky.

Available in pdf and paperback starting at $5.99

Buy Direct from the author



Related Posts

Seasonal Autumn Foods for Sustainable Living 

Attracting Eastern Gray Squirrels

What are Ground Squirrels? 

Winter Animal Signs



We're Listening

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.