Sunday, October 23, 2005

Tien Shan, apples and bees

"[On] the [northern slopes of the ] Tien Shan (Heavenly Mountains) that stretch from Uzbekistan eastwards over the border of China...the sweet apple, Malus pumila, evolved over a period of up to twelve million years. It then took some 7000 years to travel to the west and finish up on supermarket shelves.

There is...plenty of evidence that other species of bee... played a much greater role in the origin of the apple [than the honey bee]...[solitary bees such as] Leaf cutter and mason bees (including Osmia)...[are] much better evolved for the transfer of pollen in an apple flower.

Osmia starts work earlier in the season [than honey bees], gets up earlier, does not take lunch breaks...and, it is estimated, one red mason bee (Osmia rufa a [UK] native) can do the work of 120 honey-bees".

Barrie Juniper author of The Story of the Apple (Timber Press, Oregon, forthcoming), writing in the Marcher Apple Network Newsletter no. 11, Summer 2005

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