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Posts Tagged ‘wild bees’

 

I was hoping for a really good growing season for our little front yard fruit tree orchard this year.  My semi-dwarf plums, apple, pear and grapefruit trees had a tough time of it while I was away in Africa, as Bear is not at all a gardener and he mostly just kept up with mowing the small patch of lawn, leaving my suburban orchard to fend for itself on the automatic drip system.  Fruit trees need more attention than that to do well, although to his credit, none of them died.

So now that I am home and able to water and fertilize and watch over them carefully, they’re all growing better than they were last year when I got home from deployment, and flowered like maniacs in April, promising a bountiful harvest of luscious fruit.

 But flowers don’t always mean fruit.  I’ve had many years of good harvests off the two plum trees and one apple tree, though the pear has never developed much and maxed out at 8 fruits last year, before I returned home.  This year it had a dozen flowers, but none have developed into fruits.  The vigorous Mariposa plum nearest the street has a sad, lonely, single green plum on it – two years ago we took 45 large plums off this tree.

We may get a couple of dozen smaller plums off the weeping Santa Rosa tree, and the little Anna apple, though she looks to be struggling to keep a decent set of leaves on, has a smallish crop this spring as well.  Both trees flowered profusely back in late March and April, so it wasn’t for lack of fruiting potential that the set was so low.

Past years have been much more bountiful than this one promises to be.  All other things being equal, I can only guess that the wild pollinators were not out in sufficient numbers this spring, though I provide lots of year-round understory nectar sources, a diverse mixture including borage, California poppy, sage, and gallardia that freely re-seed in the beds below.  I didn’t pay sufficient attention at the time the trees were flowering, but as we talked about it the other day, it did occur to us that there used to be many more wild bees in residence than we are seeing this year.

This may have little to do with the problem of vanishing bees in domesticated hives, but it is a signal to me that something has changed in the local population of native bees, and highlights the importance of these native pollinators in providing services to backyard (and frontyard) gardens.  My tiny oasis of chemical-free, bee-friendly growing beds and gardens is not enough to ensure our local populations of wild helpers will thrive.

I may need to order a batch of orchard bees this year, for the vegetable garden.

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