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Early Spring – Good or Bad?

Posted March 21, 2012 12:00 AM by SavvyExacta
Pathfinder Tags: ANIMAL SCIENCE

The crocuses in my yard began popping up at the end of February. By early March, they were blooming, over a month earlier than usual. I worried that a snowfall would harm them but the lone snowstorm we had at the end of February quickly melted. Now some of my other spring bulbs are popping up. They do not typically appear until April.

How do a mild winter and early spring affect animals and plants? Most people I know are enjoying and taking advantage of temperatures between 50-70ºF. It's usually about 20-40ºF colder at this time. While humans may love a break from the harsh winters of the northeastern U.S., the warmth may not be a good thing for some species.

Insects

Some insects benefit from a mild winter while others suffer. The Asian ladybug is beneficial to gardeners because it feeds on aphids. They emerge from hibernation early when the weather is warm and if there are no aphids to feed on, they starve.

A species of butterfly called Mormon fritillary are suffering from a lack of food. Early snow melts in the Colorado Rocky Mountains are killing wildflowers. The flowers bud early in warmer temperatures and then are killed by snow melt or fall. The butterflies are left without a food source when the nectar is gone. This in turn causes the butterflies to lay fewer eggs. If the cycle repeats every year, species decline.

Animals

Some animals will emerge from hibernation with higher-than-usual fat stores. This can lead to increased reproduction and a larger population. In cases of so-called nuisance animals, like raccoons and groundhogs, this is not necessarily a good thing.

Bird migration can happen earlier with an early spring. This can hurt birds over the long term. If birds arrive at breeding grounds too early, they risk trying to survive in winter conditions. Death and decreased egg production are two potential consequences. They can also struggle to find food sources as they move up to coast, for example.

Plants

  • Maple trees that bloom early produce less sap. This leads to less and lower quality maple syrup.
  • Apple trees have a shorter growing season and produce a smaller harvest when winters are mild. Buds can be damaged if there is a cold snap in the midst of an early spring.
  • Plants may bloom and fade before insects are ready to pollinate them.
  • Trees that bud early will have a longer pollen season. (Those who suffer from allergies to trees and weeds will in turn experience a longer sneezing season.)
  • Growing zones are changing across the country. These affect when plants should be started outdoors and which plants can be planted.

This blog entry lists only a few of the species affected by an early spring. If spring has already sprung where you live, please share some of the unusual things you've noticed this year.

Resources

Ellwood City Ledger - Warm weather brings out better moods, but more bugs

Live Science: Spring Shows Earlier and Earlier for Many Plants, Animals

NPR: Can an early spring confuse nature's clock?

Our Amazing Planet: Early Spring is Bad News for Butterflies

The Province: Video: How early spring affects allergies

ScienceDaily: Climate Change, Increasing Temperatures Alter Bird Migration Patterns

Yahoo! Voices: Mild Winter and Early Spring May Have Consequences

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#1

Re: Early Spring – Good or Bad?

03/21/2012 6:18 AM

Often what is good for one species is bad for another.
I've got frogspawn in my garden pond, the frogs have just stopped 'Wuuurrruuupp wuuurrrupp' ing now (they don't go 'ribit ribit' in the UK)
I caught my first glimpse of Bombylius Major the other day. (A sort of hoverfly which looks like a bumble bee with its proboscis always sticking out the front.. a comical critter if you are easilly amused like me)
Del

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#7
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Re: Early Spring – Good or Bad?

03/21/2012 10:36 PM

So the frogs croak with an accent too, interesting. My wife is Brit and when she Wuuurrruppa I get hopping.

It is warm here at 25C and has been mild all winter. The St. Lawrence did not get any ice and that is unusual. Lots of robins and even a hummingbird, very rare in March. golf courses have opened. Where I am located it is too windy for bugs and rarely see any biting bug of any sort. If this is global warming, bring it on.

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#8
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Re: Early Spring – Good or Bad?

03/22/2012 3:13 AM

So the frogs croak with an accent too, interesting.
Yup I think its a different species which does the ribit ribit.
Del

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#2

Re: Early Spring – Good or Bad?

03/21/2012 6:32 AM

Two words for NC: Bugs and weeds.

80° yesterday. The weeds never died off in my yard so I've got super weeds and we're going to have lots of bugs.

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#13
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Re: Early Spring – Good or Bad?

03/23/2012 8:00 AM

Sure wish you had some Pic.'s..I've never seen a two year old weed...But I've got a ways to go..I hope..

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#3

Re: Early Spring – Good or Bad?

03/21/2012 7:42 AM

Just two years after having two of the worst snow storms here. Where that winter I don't remember the temperature straying much from 30 degrees. Which is uncommon for the area. We want to look at how weather effects the different species. Same as it always has. With or with out human cause it changes. Always has. Each specie has to adapt or perish even us. Do I feel regret in the lost of something as beautiful as a butterfly. Yes very much. As I look around at what beauty this early spring has brought. It gives hope that what ever replaces that butterfly in it's niche in nature. It will be all the more wondrous.

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#4

Re: Early Spring – Good or Bad?

03/21/2012 8:27 AM

I've noticed one unusual thing, by omission. The lack of robins.

Where I live (north of Atlanta, when I'm not on the home planet of Trantor) we usually see the robins migrating north in late February to early March. With the early warm-up that they've had in Florida (can't really call it Spring, there) and likewise the early Spring-like weather that folks in more northerly states like Ohio have had, I expected that the robins would have made there way through this area by now. But I've only seen 1 or 2, and those are likely the few year-round robins we get. Haven't seen the large flocks of them we typically see passing through by this time of year.

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#5
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Re: Early Spring – Good or Bad?

03/21/2012 9:58 AM

Robins don't migrate quite like other birds. Since in the northeast the ground didn't freeze because of the mild winter. They most likely didn't move far from the summer breeding grounds. Just like you I didn't see any large flocks. They just showed up in numbers that you would normally see through summer.

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#6

Re: Early Spring – Good or Bad?

03/21/2012 1:11 PM

Here just west of Portland, Oregon, we are having the coldest winter since I have lived here. 18 winters. I ride a motorcycle when ever possible. Most winters I miss around ten days of riding because the roads are icy. I ride in the rain. Previous to this year I had missed about twenty days once. This year going on 60 days of missed riding. Had snow this morning. We get a lot of rain here in the winter but this many freezing mornings is a new experience and unliked. My gasoline bill from having to drive the four wheeler is obscene.

so in reply to the thread --WHAT SPRING?

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#9

Re: Early Spring – Good or Bad?

03/22/2012 8:16 AM

Last year we had so much rain I lost shrubs, flowers, you name it. This mild spring is giving what didn't die last year a chance to recuperate. Apples will be expensive though. The Michigan groves like and need a cold hard winter to get a good crop of large sweet apples. The trees seem to like being frozen solid for a good three months to do well.

I don't think we will get a damaging cold snap though I do worry about a repeat of last year's endless rain.

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#10

Re: Early Spring – Good or Bad?

03/22/2012 8:51 AM

Ohhhh crap, it's been so mild here this winter in the Northeast that my nuttsy neighbor across the street was cutting his lawn yesterday. I guess he's been itching all winter long to fire up that Z-turn mower of his! Typically, we don't do that here until the last week in April or the first week of May.

Now, if I shuffle around the lawn tractor and the huge snowblower, you know what will happen don't you? Well get 30 inches of the White Chit on Easter Day! LOL I bought a brand new 30" Ariens blower back in early November and haven't used it once, except to try it out on the bare pavement!! WTF, crazy arse Winter we're having here....

Already we have a GodZillion Red Robins boppp boopping along on our lawns searching for those worms!

My wife's flowers are popping up everywhere way too early....ditto with the Apple tree buds. We get a cold snap and there goes the apple crop this year...and this area and the rest of upstate NY relies heavily on Apples! Ohhhhh my......maybe no Apple Cider in the Fall.

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#11

Re: Early Spring – Good or Bad?

03/22/2012 9:33 AM

Early spring has caused the wild plums to bloom a bit early and will produce a good quality of plums, but if it comes a late frost as has been the norm there goes the jelly and the wine..Just cross the fingers and hope..Love the wine..

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#12
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Re: Early Spring – Good or Bad?

03/22/2012 9:39 AM

Did someone mention wine? Where do I sign up?

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#14

Re: Early Spring – Good or Bad?

03/23/2012 8:20 AM

Mmmmm.....Plum wine! My Grandfather used to make that stuff every year since the beginning of Prohibition.......it'd grow hair on your chest!!!

If we get a late cold snap and/or frost here there goes this years apple crop.....and no "APPLE JACK"!

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#15

Re: Early Spring – Good or Bad?

03/23/2012 3:49 PM

In our area, upper Midwest. Its fortunate that the winter was rather mild because of the lack of snow cover. Have to wait to see if there was any frost damage because of it.

Don't know where we are in the precipitation. It may be a rough year for the farmers. If I'm wrong, I can always be a weather man.

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#16
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Re: Early Spring – Good or Bad?

03/23/2012 3:57 PM

Another concern that I have regarding the lack of snow this past winter in many areas is the lack of snow melt and resulting runoff to reservoirs and lakes as well as the lack of percolation to recharge the aquifers.

I fear that a great many areas throughout the USA and Canada that have experienced extreme snow shortages (for a lack of a better word) are going to suffer greatly this upcoming spring, summer, and fall if there is insufficient precipitation as well; you can count of drought conditions and water restrictions as a result. I can see Texas and Georgia getting clobbered again......

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#17
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Re: Early Spring – Good or Bad?

03/23/2012 4:00 PM

right you are, the fields around here are dry. I also don't know the level of the water table is

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#18
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Re: Early Spring – Good or Bad?

03/23/2012 4:46 PM

phoenix, where are you located where the soil is dry already?

I'm fixin' that you're in the midwest, Texas, or OK? Ohhh, I may be way off on my wild ass guessing!

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#20
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Re: Early Spring – Good or Bad?

03/23/2012 5:32 PM

Wrong latitude. Green Bay, Wisconsin. I have land just north of Green Bay on Wisconsin's peninsula. Where the niagra escarpment is near the surface or exposed

Yesterday we had temps in the 80's. Today it's been raining.

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#19

Re: Early Spring – Good or Bad?

03/23/2012 4:52 PM

I noticed today while out on errands that the Magnolias, cherry trees, and crabapple trees are all blossoming! Soon the apple blossoms will be out! All sorts of trees have their leaves uncurling from the buds. Usually here in the mid-Hudson river Valley this doesn't happen until late April or early May, depending on the harshness of the proceeding Winter. the ground has been thawed out for at least 4 weeks, possibly a little more.

I've never in my 53 years seen this happen here before, and I'm very observant.....

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#21
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Re: Early Spring – Good or Bad?

03/23/2012 5:35 PM

We have cherries here also, they usually blossom later than New York and Michigan's. Problem with early blossoms, is that there is still a good chance of it freezing.

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#22
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Re: Early Spring – Good or Bad?

03/23/2012 6:19 PM

Ohhh yummers, cherries and CHERRY PIE!!!!

Agreed about loosing the crop if the blossoms get frozen. That'd be a big bummer!

WI eh? Was I way off or what! I've never been there, but someday I would like to get to Oshkosh to attend the annual EAA airshow!

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Re: Early Spring – Good or Bad?

03/24/2012 9:15 AM

EAA is a great time, alway wanted to never found the time, I was buying new Miller welders for my shop. And the distributor gave me free tickets, it was great. B24's, B17's I actual found them more interesting that the modern jets But I think I'll take a tour off season also because there was so much to see. Have to pencil that in. :/

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#24
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Re: Early Spring – Good or Bad?

03/24/2012 9:48 AM

Going to the Annual EAA airshow has always been in my "Bucket List". Same with going to the Reno Air Races....

Viewing the old WWII Warbirds is always a grand time, but going up in them is even better! I was a member of the now defunct National Warplane Museum (Geneseo/Elmira NY) for 21 years, and since I racked up so many volunteer hours helping restore aircraft and since I was a long time member of the annual airshow planning committee, I got to take hops in a number of the birds.....from our B-17G "Fuddy Duddy", the Collins Foundation B-24, the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum's Avro Lancaster bomber, a P-51D Mustang, a B-25J Mitchell medium bomber, a A-26 Invader medium bomber, a Douglas AD-1H Skyraider, a very rare Grumman F7F Tigercat, numerous trailers of all types, a McD F-4D Phantom II, and finally a U.S. Navy F-14D Tomcat (with Commander Snodgrass as the pilot....that was an ass-kicker of a ride! that particular aircraft was later donated to the museum once it was retired...and de-mil'ed). The only one I wished that I had gone up in, but missed due to a strong need to attend the weekend's airshow scheduling meeting, was catching a backseat ride in a West German Luftwaffe Panavia Tornado GR.3 (a swing-wing ground attack fighter bomber like the Brits operate) when the Krauts visited our airshow back in 1997.

IF I can find my old film photos of the rides that I took (last being in 2001) I'll try to scan them and post them here....problem is there's around 200 large chiefly unmarked storage boxes either up in the attic or down in the basement to rummage through to find 'em!!!! An un-daunting task indeed...

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