This week’s blog is dedicated to Rudy Katerberg. He was a good friend who taught me much of what I know about honeybees and their fascinating lives.
I often think that for a couple weeks in the spring, we live in the prettiest place there is! Blossom time in the orchards is beautiful. There are millions of flowers on the trees and everywhere you go is like a natural aromatherapy session! And we get to watch as thousands of honeybees go about their work on warm sunny days.
Do you know that if it were not for honeybees, we would not be able to grow apples? In fact all of the fruits we grow, except peaches, require some sort of bees for pollination. We rent our bees from a local beekeeper and he brings them in during the blossom period and removes them when the flowers are finished. Each hive has 30,000-50,000 bees inside. While they are here, the bees do a tremendous amount of work. For instance, to grow nice apples, each flower should be visited 4-6 times by a bee. To pollinate the flower, the bee must be carrying pollen from another variety of apple. This is called cross-pollination. A Gala apple cannot be pollinated with Gala pollen. It has to have pollen from another variety. This is true of all apples. With acres and acres of blossoming trees out there, bees have a monumental task! But the bees love their work, and they are happiest on sunny days with light winds and plenty of flowers nearby. Here is a short video of a honeybee working on some cherry blossoms.
Not every blossom on the tree gets pollinated. Some are not visited at all. Others are not visited enough times. If you have ever seen an apple that was misshapen—one side was bigger than the other—it is because of incomplete pollination. If you cut that apple in half you will find that there are fewer or even no seeds in the small side of the apple. That blossom was not visited enough times by the bees. Here are some more interesting bee facts that will amaze you!
- Honeybees are not native to the USA. They are European in origin, and were brought to North America by the early settlers.
- Bees use pollen, which is really sticky, and combine it with nectar to make bee bread. They feed this to the baby bees.
- To make a pound of honey, honeybees need to visit 2,000,000 flowers!
- An average bee makes 1/12 a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.
- Bees flap their wings 200 times per second. That makes the familiar “Buzzzzz”.
Our bees are model employees. They work from sun up to sun down day after day. They will travel up to 5 miles one way to harvest pollen and nectar to feed the young in the hive. The only time they are a bit ornery is when it is cold or rainy and they can’t work outside! And, as a side benefit to us, they make honey for our toast and make it possible to crunch on a fresh apple in the fall!
That’s the buzz in our orchards!
Hope you have a fruitful week!