Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Sour Solution: Feed your bees & beetles cherries

Andrena bee in Evans Cherry Blossom
Edmonton has a lot of intrusive bylaws, but the ban on keeping honey bees is an especially annoying one for home gardeners. Many vegetable and fruit crops require cross-pollination, something honey bees are very good at, but they are a rare sight in the Home Bug Garden. Fortunately, the native' pollinators have responded well to the conversion from lawn into open woodland and I get 'free' pollination services.
Scarlet Malachite Beetle & cherry blossoms
I have a half-dozen varieties of cherries (Prunus) blooming in the Zone 3 HBG at the moment, but none are the Sweet Cherries that are commonly found in grocery stores. Zone 7 is about the limit for most Sweet Cherries, although some apparently can survive into Zone 5. Instead, I have a variety of 'bird cherries' (Nanking Cherry, Mayday, Sandcherry) and 'sour cherries': Prunus cerasus 'Evans' and some hybrids between cerasus and the Mongolian Cherry P. fruticosus called Prunus x-kerrasis developed at the University of Saskatchewan.
7-spot Lady Beetle - not a great pollinator, but a good predator of Black Cherry Aphid
The 'sour' cherries are self-fertile, but still need insects to move their pollen around. Currently, at least four species of bees (Andrena milwaukeensis, Bombus moderatus, Halictus confusus, and an unidentified Lasioglossum), the two beetles above, and a small hover fly have been seen doing their best to help me make cherries for snacks, crumbles, pies, and wine.
Cat-licking good: Half the first harvest
The Evans Cherries are 7-8 years old and small trees. Each Evans has produced 5-10 kg of slightly tart cherries for the last three years - as pleasant as raspberries for snacking and a very nice fruit wine base. The Prunus x-kerrasis hybrids (Carmine Jewel, Romeo, Juliette) are younger, shrubby cherries, but are reputed to have rather sweet fruit. This is the first year they have had more than a few blooms, so I hope to be able to test the 'sweet' hypothesis. Thanks to the bees, beetles, and flies, of course.
Evans Cherry reaching for the sky


  1. Wow, they are SUCH a stunning red hue.

    One of my favorite things about having a veggie garden is the various native pollinators and other buggy creatures I get to see and (if I'm a good biologist) learn about. =) This year I let my made-it-through-winter cilantro bloom, so I've got plenty of little buzzing creatures in the garden, awaiting my other plants to bloom.

    My cats ALSO frequently appear whenever I put something I made or harvested on the ground for photo-time. =) Certainly adds personality to the shoot. =)

  2. I have a 3 yr old Evan's cherry and it's healthy and thriving, and given us lots of cherries. But I"ve just noticed that it's got some sort of nasty infestation - looks like black aphids. Any idea's as to what to do - I'm in Calgary so thought you might have some northern solutions
    Please and thanks!

    1. Hi Caroline,

      Sounds like you have Black Cherry Aphid Myzus cerasi (Fabricius, 1775). These is a somewhat rambling discussion of them and some other pests at:

      I usually blast them off the new growth with the hose when they get too bad. That gives the ladybird beetles and lacewings a chance to catch up with them and keep the population down. They show up every year, but haven't been as bad as the first year - possibly because a good population of predators is around.