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This morning, while chugging on an elliptical machine, I read an insightful article in TIME magazine about the nationwide collapse of honeybee colonies due to viruses, invasive lice, and most likely pesticides. It’s estimated one-third of our food – vegetables, fruits, and nuts – depends on the help of bees for pollination.

As I read the article, I couldn’t help think about two phenomenon I observed this year. First, a miniature blueberry bush on our deck in Kirkland, which has always produced berries, produced nothing this year. Not one berry.

Second, we have a green apple tree in the backyard of our Mount Vernon house. Since we’ve owned the house, the tree has produced 2-6 apples per year. Last year, the house in back of ours went into foreclosure. The new owner dove into updating the house, including significantly pruned the yard, and cutting a huge mostly dead pine tree that was shading our apple tree.Honey_Bee_BTA_092708_074

This year, the apple tree had spectacular blooms, and has 100-150 apples on it. For two week in row, I’ve been making apple pies using the apples that fell on the ground. I haven’t bother to pick any because so many have fallen.

We don’t see a lot of bees in Kirkland, which could account for why our blueberry bush produced zippo. Our backyard, which is shaded by large cedar, evergreen, and maple trees is shady and cool with few flowers. It’s not an attractive place for bees.

In Mount Vernon, however, I planted dozens of lavenders, salvia, dianthus, and other flowering bushes, which are usually swarming with bees. Plus, the house is ringed with 30-year old rhododendron and azalea bushes.

The blueberry, strawberry, and raspberry bushes in the front of our Mount Vernon house have been very productive this year, as has the pole beans, peas, tomatoes (many are still green), cucumbers, and carrots. And an apple tree that barely produces fruit, is now densely packed. I suspect cutting down the aged pine tree made our apple tree a more attractive destination for bees. And may “bee,” we’re now enjoying the fruits of their labors.