“Bees and Blossoms” by Annie Watson
May is the month when many fruit shrubs and trees bloom, including the apple. Heavenly apple blossoms! Their beauty and delicate fragrance are a lovely treat for our senses at the end of winter.
For an apple blossom to set fruit, the pollen from the flowers on an apple tree must be transferred to the flowers on a different tree. Pollen grains are transferred from the anthers (the large pale yellow part of the flower’s center) to the stigma, which is sticky and catches the grains of pollen. Honey bees are great pollinators of apple trees When a bee collects pollen to take back to the hive, some of the pollen grains stick to her fuzzy abdomen. This is then transferred to the next flower the bee visits, or to another bee in the hive, who might visit a different tree and thus transfer the pollen.
The Champlain Valley in Vermont used to be a place where there were acres and acres of apple trees, and honey bees to pollinate them. Then huge apple farms in the midwest as well as imported apples threatened the survival of orchards in the Valley. Thankfully, with the dedication of orchardists and the interest in local food supplies, as well as a growing interest in backyard beekeeping, we now have plenty of new and historic apple orchards in the state, many of them organic — and, we hope, bees to pollinate them and produce honey.
For more about apple blossoms and bees go to the Vermont Tree Fruit Growers Association at http://www.vermontapples.org/ and the Vermont Beekeepers Association’s “Vermont Honey Story.”