When apple trees blossom in Paris, worker bees rock - GulfToday

When apple trees blossom in Paris, worker bees rock

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A bee gathers pollen near Godewaersvelde.

In an apple orchard outside Paris, a constant hum among the blossoming trees bears witness to thousands of worker bees pollinating millions of flowers in just three weeks.

"Without bees, no pollinization, no apples, no life.

"We are not worried about the lack of bees because we have our own," he said, during a tour of his 30 hives, which are backed up by another 30 that he hires during spring months to ensure his 60 hectares (150 acres) of apples are fertilised.

'Autonomous'
His grandfather, who planted the first apple trees, and his father both called on professional beekeepers to ensure the orchard was properly pollinated.

"Having bees lets me be autonomous with respect to my apple crop," he said.

Prot recovers 500 kilos (1,100 pounds) of honey per year, which he sells in the farm's store.

But it is almost a derivative product because the pollinization is the farmer's main motivation.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has made the conservation and sustainable use of pollinators an absolute priority in dealing with a pollinization crisis that threatens global food resources.

Yarrow and calendula

In France, the number of farmers who have installed their own beehives to support crops is not known, said Eric Lelong, head of the recently created trade association, InterApi.

He nonetheless believes that it is "indispensable to put a value on pollinization".

In California's almond groves, output can fall sharply unless beehives are brought in, "which explains very high prices for hive rentals," he noted.

Prot looks after his worker bees closely therefore, sowing fields of flowers, yarrow, calendula, linen and white clover near the hives.

"Since they don't all bloom at the same time, they constitute a pantry for bees from May to October, when there are no more apple blossoms.

Though the average rate of bee colony collapse in France rose to 30 percent in 2017-2018 owing to humid conditions and attacks by Varroa mites according to the agriculture ministry, Prot says that he did not lose a single colony.

'Let nature do its work'

The farmer has chosen to produce apples under an "eco-responsable" label, as have 65 percent of all apple farmers in France.

"The approach is to let nature do its work, as much as it can, while not ruling out interventions" if the crop is threatened by mould or pests, Prot said.

Use of crop protection products or chemicals such as copper or sulphur must take place while bees are asleep in their hives.

Before reaching that point, farmers who keep bees use other methods aimed at "orienting" natural processes, such as installing "insect hotels" in orchards so that wild drones passing through can help pollinate flowers.

Agence France-Presse