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  • From: Alan Haigh <>
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  • Subject: [NAFEX] Watching the pollen dancers
  • Date: Sun, 1 May 2011 07:36:14 -0500

Cool early spring weather seems to have condensed the blooming period of the
various apricots, apples, pears, peaches, cherries and plums in my orchard
this year. The apricots are usually distinctly early, but this year they
strongly overlapped with J. plums which are now overlapping with everything

With all these trees blooming at the same time and during weather not much
getting out of the ‘60’s, with lots of breeze, I’m viewing the actions of
the buzz-boys (well, mostly girls) with particular interest and concern. Will
there be enough players to tend to the task at hand?

Yesterday at around noon I wasn’t too pleased with the turn out- the buzz
was no buzz- but as the cool day warmed slightly into afternoon the ballet
began. In the pear fence I have around my vegetable garden the wasps and
honey bees arrived to tend the blossoms.

My neighbor over a quarter mile up the road from me started a honey bee hive
last year and apparently his bees are flying through the woods to find what
must be Eden to them, with most of my nursery and orchard trees in bloom at
once. I don’t believe I saw any honey bees here last year as wild colonies
have disappeared.

This year these bees have joined my wasps, carpenter bees, syrphid flies and
other unidentified members of my pollination troupe and it’s very nice to
have them back.

Carpenter bees are often bashed as destructive pests, not just to wood
structures but sometimes to fruit blossoms themselves, destroying flowers to
get to the pollen. However my CB’s are heroes as the wood damage is minor
and their efforts herculean in getting out and working the flowers of most
of the species of fruit I grow in weather that keeps others away.

Blueberries are supposed to be common victims of their destructive behavior
but they never seem to damage the flowers of my plants and are often the
only insects tending them.

As I walked around the rest of my orchard there was a decent showing of
pollinators, with different species favoring different species of fruit. It’s
not nearly as active as during warmer springs when the buzz is almost scary
loud but I’m hopeful the action will be adequate to bring about a good set.
Spring is the season for high hopes, after all.

One thing that interested me was how everything in bloom seemed to have some
insects harvesting pollen except the plentiful dandelions in beautiful bloom
everywhere under the fruit trees. I’ve often read how dandelions attract
bees at the expense of fruit blossoms but the opposite seemed to be

I’ve never found dandelions to be a problem and wonder if this concern is
something researched based or one of those items that are often in the mix
with verified information that just gets passed on with the good

I remember reading a few years back in a NY Times list of best ideas of the
year, of a research project that evaluated common medical advice given by
doctors that found that a very high percentage of it was not based on actual
research but was instead either leaps based on assumptions drawn from
research but not directly proven or purely hearsay. Got to believe there’s
a lot of that going around in horticulture and agriculture as well.

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