Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Punch-drunk Bumblebees

T-bud of Harrow Sweet pear in a Shenandoah pear tree

One of my goals this spring was to graft a second variety into most of my apple trees to help with pollination. My goal was to have the mean distance between compatible pollen sources short enough that a single, punch-drunk bumblebee could pollinate the entire orchard. That makes a notable difference for pollination during cold, wet springs like spring 2019. Wet weather deters most pollinators and drowns bumblebee nests, the M-1 tank of pollinators.

Then it occurred to me that pear crops are even more vulnerable to a shortage of pollinating insects than apple crops. Apples bloom later in the spring when temperatures are marginally warmer and the blossoms are more attractive to insects. Pear trees are not as fragrant as apple blossoms and seem less attractive to bees than apple blossoms.

We had a rain yesterday. That makes the trees put on a spurt of growth. It is also a good time to do T-budding. I jumped on the opportunity. I budded Mustafabey pear into two of my Shenandoah trees and Harrow Sweet into three more. The primary qualification of these two varieties is that they produce lots of flowers at the same time as Shenandoah and they have good, general tree health.

One way to judge the value of a pear is to count the number of synonyms. Mustafabey is also known as Arganche, Klementinka and Zaharoasa de Vara and is grown through the Balkans and west of the Black Sea. It is a very old pear variety.

More nails added
Surprise! Not a red squirrel. Chipmunks are easy to trap but I am heartened by how well centered he is in the trap and how deeply he entered it before he set it off. That bodes well for catching red squirrels.

Oh, look. Another chipmunk.
The pink surveyor's tape is so I don't prune this branch off this winter. Grafts and places where I have budded become difficult to see after the wrap falls off.


  1. I've been told that Mason/Blue Orchard Bees are an earlier pollinator that will cover the gap until the honeybees are active. I was given some pupae in cardboard tubes this spring, and they all emerged properly as soon as the weather warmed. It was the first week of April and they were coming out of their tubes where I had them stored in the garage. They may have emerged sooner if I'd had them outside in the sun.

    1. I forgot to mention that I live in the suburbs of Detroit.


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