19 May 2013

Apple Blossom Time.

Our fruit trees are, at last, covered with blossom.

There is more blossom per per tree than I've ever seen on these trees, which we planted not long after we moved into this house. I'm not sure why, maybe it's because the ground has been so very wet for so long - it started raining late last Spring and didn't stop for more than a few days at a time until early this year.

It may be that the trees are trying to make up for last year's lost crop - we had apples, or thought we had, until September, but then they all vanished. Not exactly disappeared, but they all dropped off the trees. It was a strange thing because we had no fruit at all. No apples, no pears. Nothing! If we had been dependent on our own crops we would have been in trouble, because virtually all our vegetable crops failed too - either rotted in the ground or eaten by slugs.

In the countryside the picture was the same. The oak trees lost their acorns, there was no beech mast. There were no haws, no sloes, no plums, no crab apples and only a small crop of hips and holly berries. I can't ever recall there being no winter food for the birds. Local gossip suggested that the pollen had been poor quality, because of the constant wet and cool conditions it hadn't ripened, and although the flowers had been 'fertilised', it was not a good fertilisation - so the crops failed. Whatever the cause, the knock-on effect was that the overwintering birds were either totally dependent on handouts, or flew away to find food.

The bees, of course, couldn't fly away, it was too cold, so I gave them fondant in vast quantities. The local ferals weren't so lucky, and it now looks as if at least one local site has fallen vacant for the first time in many years. Varroa could be the culprit, but it's more likely the ultimate cause was starvation, which is a horrible way to die.

So there are now vast quantities of blossom, not just in our garden but almost everywhere we look, and the hawthorn is coming into flower. All we now need is some warmth and some sunshine to coax the bees outside to pollinate it and collect some lovely nectar - having survived the winter and raised bees on last year's poor quality pollen they will benefit from the boost of nutrients from these natural food sources.


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