Apple Season is here thanks to the Honeybees!

Sustainable Farmers – Stewards of the Land: Apple Harvest . Chapter 18

Apple Season is upon us.  That little apple came a little long way from a mature tree, to blossom, to fruit to a mature apple.

IMG_7999 copywebCarpenter Nature Center orchard

Honeybees and other pollinators are critical to pollinate fruit trees. Orchards contract with beekeepers or have their own hives.  If the orchard is not a sustainable one, they will probably use fungicides and pesticides which will kill honeybees. Beneficial pollinators visit the trees when there are blossoms for nectar and pollen.  If the trees are sprayed during blossom time, the pollinators will certainly die.

IMG_9181Pollinating an apple blossom

Elm Tree Farm uses non-toxic sustainable methods including pheromone traps.  The red plugs contains a pheromone that attracts the detrimental insects which then get stuck on the sticky triangular cardboard trap.


Horticulturist Lisa checking and logging the traps to keep tabs on which insects are visiting, how many, and when they emerge and arrive. (below)

IMG_4457webElm Tree Farm

The plum curculio is one of the four most damaging insects to fruit trees including apples. The adults feed on buds, blossoms, leaves and new fruit. The scars appear as shallow cavities where they then lay eggs. (below)

IMG_4464webPlum curculio damage

Sustainable practices including cover crop on the aisles between the trees, pheromone traps, and kaolin clay spray are organic and safe treatments.  Elm Tree Farm has been sprayed with a kaolin clay mixture, a naturally made food grade powder that contains minerals.  It can be eaten but is a deterrent to insects. This is not sprayed on the blossoms. (below)


Carpenter Nature Center invites the public to pick their own apples.  Different species ripen and are ready at different times.  My favorite are the Zestars which are ready to pick in September.  Go here to see the delicious variety of apples at Carpenter. (below)


Sustainable principles include planting a variety of plants, not just one (mono crop).  If there is only one type of plant which blossoms at one time of year, that means pollinators will only have food while that one plant is blossoming and starve the remaining months. A monocrop or a single type of plant pulls a lot of one component or mineral out of the oil, thus depleting the soil.  So, it’s important to have a diverse farm or garden with a variety of blossom times and plants that contribute to the soil.

IMG_8037 copywebPumpkins at Carpenter Nature Center

Apples are picked by hand, placed into a canvas bag which hangs over the pickers neck.

IMG_5169 copy_1web

Apples are emptied into wood boxes and transported for rinsing. Carpenter sells both #4 and perfect apples.  #4 apples are those apples that have a few imperfections, a scar or a little indent.The consumer can do a lot to help the planet and save pollinators and honeybees when it comes to fruit and apples in particular.  If the consumer can change the way they think about their food there would be less pesticides and fungicides used, and much less food waste. Those apples with a little imperfection are delicious.


Please think about what you can do to save our pollinators because time is running out.  Here are some things everyone can do:

  • plant gardens instead of lawns. Lawns are a waste of water, require toxic herbicides and chemicals and do not offer any forage/food for pollinators. Consider clover instead of grass seed.
  • when purchasing garden plants, insist your garden supplier is selling you non-insecticidal plants.  Many of the plants sold to homeowners are grown from insecticidal seed which is systemic in the plant all of its life and kills pollinators.
  • think of pollinators as a good thing because they are. teach your children to respect and admire them for their ingenuity rather than being frightening or killing them.
  • do not use insecticidal sprays or pesticides on your own gardens or yards.  home use of pesticides is now equal to the destruction being done to pollinators that big time commercial agriculture does.
  • support your local beekeeper that is toxic-free and call on them for questions about how to help pollinators in your own yard.
  • grow and offer habitat for pollinators in your yard and in the roadside near your home.
  • buy organic pesticide free cotton (clothing), and food.  It’s not only healthy for pollinators, but also for humans.

Laurie Schneider is a visual storyteller whose portrait and documentary projects capture the humanity of her subjects.  She specializes in photographing people who shape the landscape of our times, showing us how they look, what they do, and the way they influence our world.  Laurie’s projects include commercial, editorial and portraiture work with sustainable agriculture, animals, and people.  When she is not clicking the shutter, Laurie is riding horses or rescuing honeybee swarms.  She is proud to be a steward of the land.

Laurie Schneider is a 2013 recipient of an Artist Initiative Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.
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