January 20, 2018

Pollinators On Parade At Wolgast Tree Farm

In honor of National Pollinator Week, we’d like to show a tiny portion of the many pollinators that make Wolgast Tree Farm their home.  

Pollinators are creatures (bees, butterflies, birds, etc,) that move pollen around either within flowers or carry pollen from one flower to another.  This causes fertilization which leads to the creation of seeds and fruit.  Producing seeds and fruits is how a plant reproduces, and without pollination the plants would not be able to reproduce as well or provide the seeds, fruits and other products that we depend on.  Around the world, about 1000 plants are grown for food, fiber, medicines, spices and beverages, that need pollination in order to produce those goods.  Many popular foods that need to be pollinated include apples, strawberries, peaches, blueberries, coffee, chocolate, almonds, pumkins, tequila, vanilla and many others. 

Having a wide variety of pollinators is needed for a healthy ecosystem, too.  

Unfortunately, it seems pollinators of all kinds are declining for a variety of reasons. 

Here on the farm we try to help pollinators in a number of ways.  We allow a variety of flowering plants that provide pollinators with nectar to grow among our Christmas trees, in our our River-Friendly stream buffers and in our hedgerows.  We also made brush piles to provide various native bees with nesting sites.  We never mow the whole farm all at once, but rather do small sections at a time so pollinators have a better place to hide from predators, forage for food and reproduce. 

All of these farm practices not only benefit a wide variety of native pollinators, but benefit our own honeybees, as well.

Everyone can help create a better environment for pollinators.  Visit Pollinator Partnership at www.pollinator.org to learn about the many ways you can help reverse this trend to help these important and interesting creatures.

Of Bears and Bees and Electric Fences at Wolgast Tree Farm

This is not a photo of beehives in Joplin, Missouri or even beehives at Wolgast Tree Farm.   This photo was taken in nearby Bridgewater in central New Jersey after a bear destroyed an apiary. 

Most people don’t think of Bridgewater as someplace where you’d need to watch your “Ps” and “Qs” concerning bears, but bear sightings have been increasing across central New Jersey, so it’s important for everyone to learn how to minimize  conflicts with bears.

Bears can be attracted to apiaries for both honey and bee brood (baby bees still in the comb).  It has been estimated that damage by a bear to an apiary can cost $400 per hive.  It’s also emotionally upsetting for the beekeeper, and the bees don’t like it either.

An effective means of minimizing bear damage to beehives is by surrounding them with an electric fence, so earlier this month, Wolgast Tree Farm hosted a free electric fencing clinic for beekeepers. 

Greg Miller from Gallagher Fence Company gave the clinic and explained how electric fences work, how to set them up, and how to maintain them so that they’ll actually deter a bear if one attempts to get at a hive.  Handouts were also given that outlined common problems that personnel from the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife have encountered when apiaries with electric fencing failed to stop bears from destroying hives. 

 All kinds of beekeepers came out to the farm and it was a delight to meet everyone.  Hopefully, the information provided at the clinic will keep everyone’s apiary “Bear-Free”. 

The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife offers a plethora of information on how to minimize conflicts with bears under a variety of circumstances (not just for beekeeping), as well as information about black bear history in New Jersey,  their biology, behavior, and more.  Visit:   http://www.njfishandwildlife.com/bearfacts.htm  to get the lowdown on these intriguing and powerful creatures of the Garden State.

It’s “Pine Time” at Wolgast Tree Farm

June is “Pine Time” at Wolgast Tree Farm.  That means pruning the pine species to produce beautifully shaped Christmas trees for the holiday season. 

The pines have put on lots of new growth this spring so they look a bit wild and woolly now.   All species of pine trees must be sheared in the month of June if we want the pines to have the classic “Christmas tree shape.”  This is different from spruces and firs which can be sheared later in the year.  If you shear pines in July, they will have poor bud set which will affect their growth next year.  Shear too early and they’ll continue to grow and have a lousy shape.   With Christmas tree farming, like all farming, timing is everything!

Shearing pines starts at the tops of the trees.  The top must have a straight center leader.  Some leaders will be naturally straight, but sometimes they will have a slight angle, or a bird (usually an American Robin) will perch on the top and cause it to lay on its side, like in the picture on the right.  Sometimes we just want the leader to have a little extra support.  We use a special hand-held device to attach a bamboo stick to the center leader using plant ribbon (see below).  This helps keep the center leader straight and give the soft new growth extra support if a bird lands on it. 

The new growth of the center leader is cut to 12 inches long, and the side branches that are right around it are cut to 8 inches.  This helps create the correct taper for the tree.   All the tops are done by hand, one by one.

When all the pine tops are done, we come back with a machine that shears the rest of the tree.  See how that’s done a little later in the month.   All the shearing is done by Len and Cathy.

June is definitely “Pine Time” on Wolgast Tree Farm!

Farm Tours This Summer At Wolgast Tree Farm

Would you like to visit a real working farm this summer? Wolgast Tree Farm in Somerset, New Jersey welcomes groups this summer to tour the farm.

Come out and learn about wildlife, beekeeping, how honey is made, river-friendly and sustainable farming.

Children, adults and all kinds of groups are welcome!

Call Cathy Blumig at the farm for more information  732-873-3206