Watching for Bees

There was a brief item on the news this morning that caught my ear.  Blueberry farmers in the Fraser Valley (which produces a LOT of berries for North America) are three weeks behind in their crop and harvest because of the cold weather.  No surpise there.  But they are also concerned because even though the plants are now flowering, the temperatures have been so much colder than normal that farmers aren’t at all sure that they will get normal levels of pollination, which could also mean a much smaller crop.

Here I am, trying to wrap my head all the time around the intricate interconnections of the natural world, and I hadn’t even thought about the bees!  I saw bees around our place a while back, probably the last time we had a warm day.  According to the farmer on the radio, bees start flying around at about 15 degrees (C).  Just yesterday, the Skipper and I were exclaiming over the beautiful showing of apple blossoms erupting on our many trees.  Last year, crazy weather meant that we were hit hard by powdery mildew and most of the blossoms didn’t open at all–they were stunted and rusty and we got about 5 apples total from several trees.

This year, my theory has been that even though it’s been cold, it’s been consistently so.  No wild temperature swings between February and May to fool plants into thinking it’s safe to come out and then getting blasted by winter once more.  So I was hoping that we might get lucky with the slow creep toward warmer temperatures that might be more normal from a plant’s perspective.  And so far so good–the trees are covered in perfect pink blossoms, and the blueberries, strawberries and cherries are all starting to flower up nicely.

But now that I think about it, I haven’t seen a single bee in those beautiful flowers in days!  And when I have noticed one, it’s been remarkable, which means that there aren’t many around.  Usually I’m not noticing bees one at a time, I’m remarking at the sight and sound of swarms over the available blooms.  And as I’ve been getting ready to plant all of the summer “beneficial insect attractors” from seed in the newly cleared beds, I hadn’t even thought about these early plants that will be long past flowering by the time those new annuals come up…

So there’s another reason to keep our fingers crossed for warmer weather.  Come on out bees!

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7 thoughts on “Watching for Bees

  1. I’ve been very worried about the lack of bee activity too. I’m hoping the sunshine today will have them out.

    Another option for small fruit producers like ourselves is to hand pollinate with a soft paintbrush. You could give it a try. Just think about which varieties require cross-pollination and try to move back and forth between trees where that is needed.

  2. Hi Toni, Don’t know if the circumstances are the same there in BC as they are here in Ontario, but beekeepers here have had anywhere from 17 to 33, all the a way up to 100% winter-kill of their hives this year. I am at the high end and anxiously waiting for swarm season to start.

  3. Deb, that’s just devastating to hear, and I’m so sorry about your own losses too. We’d have to ask Amanda @ Asabee.com what the more local situation is, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that it is simliar. More reasons, sadly, to learn to hand pollinate and to encourage those other native pollinators…next I’ll have to convince the Skipper to leave those wasp nests alone!

  4. Yeah the bees can’t fly when it’s less than 8C and they prefer warmer than 10C so I know where I’ve been, it’s been much too cold for bees. I’m sitting at a pretty significant loss this year for bees but I have seen them out there. On March 23rd this year, I saw my first bumble bee. This is quite late as a couple years ago, I saw them out in January on the heather. Poor bees!
    As for your wasps, the wasps have definitely killed a hive or two of mine last year. They were horrible! So Boo to the wasps!:) Good luck attracting the pollinators.

  5. Thanks for sharing that, Amanda. You remind me that our front garden, which is almost all heather, has often been covered in bees for months now. So sorry about your losses as well–and I didn’t realize that wasps could kill hives! I will give the Skipper free rein! 🙂 (And thanks for the blog-iversary wishes too!)

  6. Just up the coast in the Courtenay. I have seen some bees. The flowers on the south side of the house had lots, and the pear tree had 5 or 6. My apple (and it’s crab mate) haven’t bloomed yet. I’m urban I’m not sure how many bees are domestic and which are feral or wild…. aside from the few bumbles.

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