King Blooms, Queen Bees and Big Apples

One of the joys of our experiment was learning so much about where our food comes from and the processes that bring it to market. More specifically we became friends with the people involved in the food business and the learning continues. The other day I ran into Jerry Tate from Tate’s Honey Farm at the Rocket Bakery. He had a truck full of bees and was headed up to Greenbluff to place his bee hives in and amongst the blooming fruit trees. In our conversation we got on the topic of apples and he mentioned that they put the bees out when the “king bloom” is on. This was a new term to me, so I asked for more information and he explained that apple trees have a blossom bunch with a large blossom in the middle that blooms before the others. Fruit growers pollinate this large flower and then when the others emerge they zap them to keep them from fruiting. This is how we get the big apples in the store and it helps explain why I only get whimpy little apples on my apple trees. I need to snip off the little guys.

So today I went and investigated my apple trees and sure enough, they are full of blossom bundles with king blooms in the middle standing above all the others (see picture above). This is probably old news to most folks, but to a novice like me it’s a thrilling discovery. And the good news is that Jerry’s bees down by the river are close enought to be roaming my neighborhood and will pollinate the flowers for me.

Jerry also mentioned that without people like him taking bees up to the orchards there would be little to no fruit on them. I haven’t heard much about bee colony collapse lately but you can understand why it is such an important issue. If you want to participate in efforts to learn what’s going on with the bees go to www.greatsunflower.org.

Jerry sells his honey at the Millwood Farmers Market, Wednesdays from 3-7pm and at his home location on Saturdays.