beeman_gardener(5)May 15, 2013

I have waited 7 years to see signs of fruit on my two pear trees, blossoms for the first time this year. Guess what? No bees, not a one.
Last year I had numerous bumble bees working what blossoms we had, dry hot spring, late frosts took them 'all' off. So no fruit last year, this year lots of blossoms, no bees, no fruit again.
I think last years drought did a number on the bumbles, plus the neonicitinoids are just going to finish them off.
I'll just have to use the gardeners mantra, "There is always next year". Bummer!

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Two different variety pear trees? Hand-pollinate them yourself.

I did my first year when I had one Asian pear in bloom and my friend had another variety. We live in different towns!! We cut some flowers from our trees, swapped them and hand pollinated them. At that time, I did not know about using a paint brush. I just used the flowers from my friend's tree brushing right on the flowers of mine. It worked.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 9:41PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Asian pears are self fruitful. If that's what you have get ready to thin, thin, thin!

But then Asians don't take 7 years to bloom. That sounds like Europeans. I'm not so sure there. Bees might be needed.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 10:13PM
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Here in Wisconsin the honeybee people are having problems with high losses of colonies, over the winter. However, in our yard, in Madison, the native bees seem to be doing OK, so far as I can tell. We have bumblebees, green bees, digger bees that are about the size of honeybees, and smaller digger bees, about half the size of honeybees. Someone must be keeping honeybees around here, because we have them, as well. There is some effort involved in maintaining the local bee population. Our lawn, trees, and garden are all free of herbicide and insecticide. Dandelions get dug up and composted. We have a small restored prairie, and there is something blooming over there through the entire growing season. It seems to be working, and it is not all that hard to do. However, our lawn does not look like a golf course.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 10:16PM
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alan haigh

FN, I believe pears bear fruit without seeds (carpenocarthicly?) only when the weather is warm enough in spring. Further north this is not a reliable event. I'm not speaking about Asian pears, because I rarely see them growing alone but I often read that they need pollination.

I've heard southern growers speaking about reliable pear self fruitfulness and Childers mentions this aspect of pears in his book "Modern Fruit Science" (which isn't very modern anymore). He mentions that Bartlett pears used to be grown commercially without pollinators in S. CA, unlike production further north.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 5:48AM
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In the south bartletts are sold as self pollinating. We've had the same lack of pollinators this spring, but I think it's because we've had an unusually wet and cold spring, and the bees never came out in force. They only came out in spurts, as the weather occassionally warmed up, then they would disappear again.
Some of my trees got pollinated, while others didn't. If the particular cultivar bloomed, when the bees were out, it got pollinated. If it bloomed, when they weren't, it didn't.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 7:44AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX


Maybe up north or northeast is different. But Adam's County Nursery in PA makes the blanket statement that Asian pears are self fruitful. My experience says the same. But like you say my experience doesn't mean much in the northeast. I'd think ACN experience does count in NE.

If I didn't find Asians so tedious to thin it won't matter as much. But why make a grind even worse.

Have you seen lone Asians fail to set?

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 8:22AM
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I never thought the day would come when I would need to hand pollinate. I know the Chinese have done it for years.
Could someone give any pointers to look for? Then I'll give it a try.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 12:00PM
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Beeman, I did a little hand pollinating myself this year. I found this advice somewhere on Garden Web, sorry I can't credit writer. Best to pollinate early in the day. Use a small brush, like kids paint brush or I used flux brushes bought cheaply in big bags at Harbor Freight. Go to first tree, look for newest blossom that are probably whiter than older blossoms. Swirl paint brush around in several blossoms. then proceed to next tree where you swirl around in as many blossoms as you wish to pollinate then do a few new blossoms to increase pollen load on brush. Go back to first tree and repeat process in order to pollinate it. I did this 3 days running in the morning and had nice results.


Pam in cinti

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 5:01PM
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alan haigh

FN, as I wrote, I wasn't speaking about Asian pears although I haven't read that they are self fruitful (not the same as self fertile which requires containing viable seeds- some species reject fruit without them, I believe).

However, in the past I've read people discussing the need for Asian pear pollination- where does Adams post this claim? I agree there would almost certainly be solid basis for them to say it.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 6:18PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX


On page 13 of the 2013-14 ACN catalog right below Asian Pears and above the variety descriptions it says "Asian pear trees are self fertile and do not require cross pollination".

You're probably like me and usually have plenty of pollen donors around. But sometimes I don't see bees and the trees load up anyhow. I've never seen one that wasn't way overloaded with fruit except when they froze.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 6:29PM
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Ditto! My Bosc is in it's 7th leaf and gave me one fruit out of it's 2 bloom clusters last year. This year Bosc just finished PF on it's 10 clusters, the biggest bummers in addition are it's planned pollenizer next to it has no flowers yet so I had to scrounge around town for some blooming trees and beg for branches to put in a bucket under it. The 2 trees I could get branches from were very close to PF when I put their branches under that Bosc in FB.

That one Bosc fruit last year was absolutely delicious, sweet and juicy, sure would be nice to get a few hundred more some year.

BTW, there is an asian pear in town that produces like mad every year and mine are the closest pear trees to it, over 4 blocks away as the bee flies.

I feel yer pain, man :)

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 6:36PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX


One word of warning, Bosc is the most biennial fruit I grow. I'm not sure I could thin enough to make it bear every year. But they are good fruit when picked and stored properly.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 7:57PM
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I did not put branches of flowers in the bucket of water under a tree. I was worried that bees may not have found them in time or worse, no bees. I just brushed pollen from flowers of another tree right on the flowers I intended to cross pollinate. At the time, my tree was short enough.

I'm glad Asian pears do not need cross pollination. I did not regret I helped them at the time, though.

I really like Pinc06's method, a lot more organized and efficient.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2013 at 10:50PM
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I'm sure hoping that Seckel is self-fruitful like some say, as opposed to what others say. The only other pear I have blooming is the Keiffer, and it's ahead of the Seckel by a week.

I did some hand-pollinating just in case.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2013 at 4:12PM
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Maybe I'll get lucky and Seckel, next to Bosc will finally start pushing out flowers one of these years and at the same time as Bosc. After all these years it seems a waste to have dedecated so much room to nearly zero productivity. I blame the productivity solely on myself, poor pruning combined with inadequate FB control and possibly improper variety selection.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 1:05PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX


Do you want the good or bad news first....;-)

My Bosc and Seckel grafted to the same tree took about 7-8 years to set fruit and there were no issues like you mention. But they both set very well once they started blooming. Comice bloomed much earlier, several years, but set nothing to start and maybe 1% at best after 10 years.

Bosc is very biennial. So when it does bloom be prepared to thin heavily or write off the crop the next year.

Hang in there!! I'm glad I did!! The fruit is great and not many can say they are growing their own.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 1:21PM
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Most of the pear varieties are self pollinating. I have one Bartlet pear tree. The tree makes a lot of pears but OFM destroys all the fruit. May be this year I will have about 50 pears.I am talking about 50 feet tree.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2013 at 2:00AM
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alan haigh

The issue of self fertility or self fruitfulness is complicated. When I started my business here in SE NY 25 years ago, Adams claimed apricots were completely self fruiting but I noticed plantings with at least two varieties seemed to bear more consistently.

I mentioned this during a conversation with one of the senior Adams sales reps and a couple years later they suggested N. apricots benefit from cross pollination. My suggestion probably had nothing to do with the change but I did feel a certain gratification.

I can't be sure Childers was correct when he wrote that self fertility of E. pears depends on mild spring temps after bloom but evidence certainly points to it.

Even if Adams now claims all Asian pears are reliably self fruitful, I am not absolutely sure this is true every season, every variety, regardless of weather. Not without the research that goes with the claim. It just isn't an important commercial crop in the northeast so there is limited info on requirements here.

Incidentally, Seckel seems to be consistently self fruitful here.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2013 at 5:35AM
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Curious how Beemans pollination went. This year I had about a dozen trees that flowered profusley. I vistited the site several times per day to count bees. The most that I ever saw at one time was 3. I assumed the worst.

The trees are now loaded with so many fruitlets I'll never get them thin enough.

Busy Bees.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2013 at 10:16AM
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I can't say how Beeman's pollination is going, but I have not seen many bees visiting our blueberry shrubs this spring. I see them in the yard, around the violets and creeping charlie, also in bloom. Last night I saw a bumblebee working over the blueberry shrubs, at 8 pm. It was pretty near dark, and I did not know that bees worked this late in the evening. So, the bees are still full of surprises for me. I am guessing that we will have a good crop of blueberries this year. Most of the pollination seems to be happening when I am not looking.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2013 at 11:27AM
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As you seemed interested I thought an update would be in order.
I seem to have a reasonable set of blubs, we had a solitary Bumble who did all that. Have seen her around on the Black currants, which also look good.
The petals are drifting off the pears, saw a solitary black bee, which I took for a Mason, doing the rounds on late blossoms on the Bartlett.
My Granny Smith, new this year, has a lot of small fruitlets, but will wait a few days to see what sort of a take we get.
My wife went through both pears using a small soft paint brush. Will be interesting to see what develops.
I'm a bit more optimistic, even with the loss of so many bees.
Last year at one point I counted 6 big bumble bees working the garden plus solitaries, this year just one. At this rate of loss next year not even one, bad business.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2013 at 8:28PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

ltilton, Seckel is "mostly self-fruitful". For me, however, it is almost like an Anna apple. My whip had fruit. Then, it set a second round (which I cut off). This is it's second year and I'm going to have to thin. Now, I do have 16 different varieties of pear trees, but many did not bloom this year, as this is only their second year in the ground (planted last bare root season). Seckel is a very reliable self-fruiting tree here in my very warm climate. In fact even in colder zones, it can over set, and you can end up with a bunch of ping pong sized pears. Not that that is a bad thing necessarily, but you do have to thin if the tree is very very young, so the tree puts some energy into developing a good canopy. My Seckel is extremely happy here, and is at least a year's growth ahead of almost every other variety except for Comice. Comice is big, but no fruit, yet (dang it, my favorite dessert pear).

Patty S.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2013 at 9:07PM
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I have noticed that bumblebees are working our blueberry shrubs in the evening, around 8 pm. My best guess is that the bees tend to overheat in the middle of the day, and prefer cooler evening temperatures for working. I can't think of any other reason.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 12:17AM
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Yep, I spot signs of fruit set on the Seckel already. I'll be bagging them shortly.

I top-worked the Keiffer a bit last year, and I hope to get flowers the next, to help with the x-pollination.

I've been doing a lot of reading into the mason bee and how I can do much better with them, but happily I seem to get fruit regardless.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 10:30AM
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Be cautious 'ltilton' as a bee keeper I tried Mason or Blue Orchard Bees. Worked hard at establishing a population which didn't work, spent time and money trying. Seems that you need Eastern bees.
You can read my efforts at the link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mason Bees

    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 11:13AM
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beeman - I had a thiving population of mason bees [hornfaced bees] for several years. In fact, they outgrew my ability to provide homes for them and started to nest in odd and inconvenient places.

But last year for several unrelated reasons, I had a population crash and very few bees hatched this spring. I now see that I need new methods of managing them.

But they sure do work.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 11:46AM
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An update on pollination in our yard in Madison, Wisconsin: The blueberry shrubs are covered with tiny green berries, so I think the flowers were pollinated successfully. It has been a long, cool, and damp spring, and I think the weather has reduced bee activity. Even so, I have seen two species of ground nesters, or digger bees, as well as a few bumblebees, and also a few honeybees. I do not keep honeybees, so they must be coming in from elsewhere. I don't have any bee enclosures or bee houses, but I do avoid using any toxics in the yard and garden. We have a wide range of flowering plants, so there is always something in bloom here, beginning in April, and extending through October.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2013 at 10:11AM
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At this time our blueberry shrubs are covered with green fruit, and it is clear that pollination was not complete this spring. Maybe 25% of the fruit is very tiny, and I know from past years that these will never develop into full-size berries. It looks like we will get a crop, the shrubs are healthy, but the yield will be off. We are having an endless spring, with rainfall every other day, or so it seems. There are some bees out and about, but not very many compared to what I have seen in the past. I think that they are just not very active in this dreary weather.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 10:39AM
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I have a red bartlet pear that produces every year I never have spayed it or thinned the fruit. It doesnt get to stay loaded with fruit long as the crows start working it when the fruit is dime sized... I still manage to get a bushel off it every year which does me fine.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 4:42AM
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