Springtime on the farm means we are busy getting our orchards ready to blossom and later bear the fruit that we’ll all enjoy this fall. Some of our most important work happens this time of year and requires a small army of workers–our bees! To kick off the pollination season, we first needed to transport our hives back up to Michigan from the South, where they spent the winter. Every year we move our bees back and forth. This ensures that they stay healthy and survive the cold winter months. We move our bees at night when they aren’t flying so they are all “home” in the hive while traveling.
As soon as the bees arrive, they get to work pollinating the trees. We use crab apple trees (about one crab apple tree per 20 apple trees) to cross-pollinate the apples throughout the orchard. It’s been a cold pollination season so far, with several days of cold, wet, windy weather. We will be leaving the bees out to work as long as possible so we can get the maximum pollination and fruit set that we can.
The bees that are working and pollinating the trees are all females. The male bees are present in the hive only for the queen. We estimate that bees can pollinate 10 flowers per minute on average. One bee could pollinate a whole tall spindle apple tree in about an hour. Talk about busy bees!
The bees that pollinate the Schwallier orchards belong to our son-in-law Justin, who is our resident beekeeper. We sell his delicious honey and honey products in the market later in the season. He takes care of moving the bees in and out of the orchards for us. Once the bees are finished pollinating the orchards, they are moved to “bee yards” or wide open spaces scattered around the county, where they collect more pollen and nectar from the wildflowers or clover fields.
And that’s the buzz on the farm for now! We’re already eagerly looking forward to seeing you all again in the fall. We’ll keep you updated on what’s going on during the off-season, as we are as busy as our bees getting everything ready for what we hope will be another fantastic year!