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!