Bees are Important

I attended a Montgomery County Bee Keeper’s meeting the other night, and although I’ve only attended one other, I heard some of the same things. One most important and repeated message is that for bees to survive the mites that attack them must be controlled. I heard it at least twenty times and I would be afraid to go to that meeting next month if I lost my bees to mites. Fortunately, a neighbor really takes care of our bees and is very interested in doing a good job of it.

Bees are important to an apple orchard because of their aid in pollination. Pollination involves a few things, including the parts of the flower. Apple flowers have both male, the stamen, and female, the pistil, parts. The stamen actually consists of the anther, which has two sacs containing pollen grains and the filament, a stalk which supports the anther. There are twenty stamens in every apple flower. The pistil is made up of three parts, the stigma, which catches the pollen and germinates it, the style, which supports and acts with the stigma to deliver the pollen to the third part, the ovary, which grows into the fruit. Pollination occurs when pollen grains are transferred from the anther to the stigma. This process allows fertilization, the union of the egg and sperm, to take place which stimulates the basal part of the flower, keeping it from dropping off the tree. Apple pollen sticks to the honeybee as it travels from flower to flower and rubs off onto the stigma. Most apple varieties are not self-fruitful and need the pollen from another apple variety to produce fruit. A honeybee can visit 5000 blossoms on a nice day.

So, I was thinking about what my topic would be this month and I had a problem. The past two years in several issues, I’ve talked about spraying your fruit trees. I figured readers would be tired of this topic. Then I thought about the bee meeting and the repetition of their advice and now I don’t feel so bad writing about spraying your trees.

In order to get edible fruit, you must spray your trees. March is the time to begin and these early sprays are very important. The oil spray should be applied on peaches while the tree is still dormant but the temperature must stay above 40° F. for twenty four hours after the application (and for any other oil application). Ferbam (Carbamate) or lime sulfur should be added to this spray. On blueberries apply just the oil spray. When the leaves show between a quarter and half inch green on apples, cherries, pears and plums, apply the oil spray. The oil is used to control insect eggs and newly emerged insects. Fewer insects now means fewer insects later. Spray oil is very safe to humans and animals and is accepted by organic growers. Ferbam, a fungicide, controls peach leaf curl and it is also very safe. Lime sulfur as a fungicide can be used if you’re an organic grower. Remember, follow directions on the label. (For those that may not know it, organic does not mean not sprayed.)

Hopefully, by the time you apply these sprays your trees are pruned. Not only does that save on the amount of spray to be used, but it also allows for better air circulation and permits more light into the center of the tree. Fresh air and light help keep disease pressures lower.

Fertilization is also important at this time of year. Older, established trees usually need only nitrogen. It should be applied at the rate of no more than one-third pound of actual nitrogen per tree. For example, less than five pounds of blood meal (15-1-1) would be spread around drip line of the tree. Younger trees, three years old or less, should be given a handful of 10-10-10, spread around the tree, away from the trunk.

Finally, March and April are the best months to plant fruit trees and other fruit bearing plants. There should be a wide selection of healthy young trees available and they’ll have time to get their roots established before the onslaught of heat and dryness.

Well, fruit growing is like keeping bees. You don’t do the same things every day, but when things have to be done, they must get done, or you won’t enjoy the fruits (honey) of your labor.

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