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After cold start, orchardists say, ‘It’s up to the bees’

“It’s like a third March.” That’s what Franklyn Carlson of Carlson Orchards had to say about the weather this month. Temperatures that dipped below freezing a few nights in April and May, and cold, rainy days that kept bees from pollinating the blossoms may have damaged some of this year’s fruit crops. The consensus among Harvard’s orchardists is that it’s too soon to tell, but they remain optimistic.

Carlson told the Press that he has seen some baby peaches in the blossoms, so he believes his peach crop has made it through so far. He added that most of his orchards are higher up than the others in town, so the air is just a bit warmer. But he said crop development has slowed down considerably over the past few months. “We started the season three to four weeks early; now we’re four to five days late. It’s crazy.”

Westward Orchards’ Chris Green is taking the “wait and see” attitude. “It was cold three weeks ago, and that’s when the peach blossoms were out,” he said. He added that the weather kept the orchard’s bees from flying at that time, increasing worries about the peach crop. But Green said the apple blossoms are not all out yet, and the weather is starting to warm up, so the bees should be flying.

Pam Lawson of Doe Orchards said she believes they have probably lost some fruit, but she thinks there will be a decent crop this year despite that, as long as the weather cooperates for the remainder of spring. As for bees, Lawson said three of Doe’s beehives made it through the winter and are “quite strong.” She said they’ve added two more, and right now there’s “lots of nectar and pollen going into the hives. So far, so good.”

Old Frog Pond Farm owner Linda Hoffman told the Press it’s hard to tell how the crop is doing. “I think the pears have been pollinated, maybe the plums, and I’m not sure about the peaches. But the apples, our main crop, are only now blossoming, and it’s cold and raining,” she said. The farm has six beehives, but Hoffman agreed with the other orchardists that it has been too cold for the bees to fly. With blossoms behind schedule, Hoffman said that even the bees that are flying now “seem disgruntled about the lack of flowering plants.”

Everyone agreed it’s all up to the bees right now. Carlson said the bees were “working hard this morning” when the Press spoke to him on May 11. “They only need a few hours a day,” he said, and added that what the orchards need is continued temperatures in the 60s and no wind. According to weather.com, by Thursday, May 14, nighttime temperatures will stay above 40 degrees, and daytime temperatures will be in the 60s and 70s until the end of May. Fly bees, fly.

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