Food Storage, Animal

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Food Storage, Animal


the search, selection, and transportation of food to a definite place by animals to be used (usually during the foodless season) by the animals or their offspring.

The animal instinct for food storage is an important biological adaptation; it is most highly developed in inhabitants of cold and temperate latitudes with severe seasonal changes in food conditions. It is observed in many invertebrates (predominantly insects), in some birds, and particularly often in mammals.

Invertebrates that store food (predominantly animal food) include certain spiders, crabs, crayfish, and many insects. Termites store grass, leaves, and seeds in their nests. Burying beetles bury the corpses of small animals and deposit eggs on them, thus ensuring their larvae of food. Dung beetles roll balls of dung and place them in their burrows. Bees prepare honey as food for their offspring and for the entire swarm for winter and bad weather. Bumblebees, wasps, and many others also store food.

Food storage is seldom observed in birds, and then only in those that do not migrate for the winter. The sparrow owl catches small rodents and birds in the fall and stores them in hollows (up to 80 items). The nutcracker hides pine kernels in moss, under protruding tree roots, and in similar places. From autumn on, titmice prepare seeds and the larvae and caterpillars of insects and hide them in cracks in the bark on branches. Food storage is also characteristic of the nuthatch, the jay, and a few others. The majority of birds use their stores during the winter as supplementary food. An exception to this are some owls and shrikes, whose small reserves are designated for feeding brooding females or fledglings in the nest.

Mammals that store food include some predators, pikas, and many rodents. The animals use their reserves in winter or in spring after they awaken from hibernation or winter sleep. The steppe polecat stores gophers (up to 50 of them) in its burrow; the ermine stores water rats, mice, and frogs; the weasel stores small rodents. Many pikas prepare hay, putting it in stacks or in cracks between stones. The squirrel stores mushrooms, nuts, and acorns; the harvest mouse stores grain spikes or weed seeds (up to 10 kg). The chipmunk drags nuts and grains (up to 8 kg) to its burrow; the long-tailed gopher stores grains and potatoes (up to 6 kg); the zokor stores tubers, bulbs, and rhizomes (up to 9 kg). The gray field mouse stores grains and grass (up to 4 kg), and the forest mouse stores seeds (up to 2 kg). The fat dormouse stores nuts (up to 15 kg); the river beaver stores boughs and rhizomes (up to 20 cu m), immersing them in the water near the entrance to its burrow.


Fabre, J. H. Instinkt i nravy nasekomykh, 2nd ed., vols. 1-2. Petrograd, 1906-14. (Translated from French.)
Sviridenko, P. A. Zapasanie korma zhivotnymi. Kiev, 1957.
Zhizn’ zhivotnykh, vols. 2-3. Moscow, 1968-69.
Naumov, N. P. Ekologiia zhivotnykh, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1963.
Naumov, S. P. Zoologiia pozvonochnykh, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1965. Pages 110-12.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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