It was a great big tuliptree and it had been struck by lightning the previous Sunday. I agreed with the owner that removing the tree was the best option, even though you can’t always tell right away whether or not a lightning-struck tree will survive. It was a double-trunked tree and both trunks were significantly splintered from the strike. There were other defects too – it had been improperly pruned (topped) at least twice over the last 40 years and, though not obvious to a non-professional, there were large decayed and hollow limbs and weak re-growth as a result. And it was right next to the house!
It would be a pretty expensive job, but the client told me I was the low bidder! I thought perhaps the other 2 tree companies thought the job might be a little too tricky for them and they didn’t really want it. The client suggested perhaps they (the others) felt they could take advantage of the situation because insurance would be paying for it. (The claim was denied, at any rate).
So we decided to treat it as an emergency- the owner was really concerned about the danger. We did the job on Monday. We were well prepared, with a big crew, and the job looked like it should actually end up being fairly routine until I spotted the bees!
Honey bees. In the hollow created by one of the old topping wounds was a colony of honey bees. Now what? We opted not to kill them, as it appeared they were not easily agitated. Honey bee colonies vary in their levels of aggressiveness depending on the queen. It seemed like this was a very docile queen.
The climber was not afraid of them, and he simply went about his business piecing down the tree with the bees paying him hardly any attention. The last cut, however, did get them riled up as it dumped their home forty feet to the ground. We waited until the next morning to fell the remaining trunk.
Here is a slide show of the day’s work. Note the photos of the climber working with bees buzzing all around him!
Click here to view the slideshow
I still haven’t lost any more tomato plants. I have been spraying them after each rain and I guess that has been working. It hasn’t rained for a whole week up until today, and there is some nice lush green new growth on top – not marred by the phototoxic “burn” of the phosphorous acid.
I have never applied regular chemical sprays in my vegetable garden in all my 40+ years of gardening. My crops are normally 99+% organically grown, not because I have any fanatical fear of modern crop protection chemicals or synthetic nitrogen but because I just don’t normally need them. The soil is fertile because I till in cover crops and lots of composted wood chips. And this year I made my own fish emulsion fertilizer out of all the filleted carcasses of the bluefish I caught this spring. If I were to use pesticides the decision to do so would be based on the same IPM/plant health care principles I use when caring for a client’s trees. First watch plants for potentially damaging pests, then intervene only when those pests reach a threshold population. For me the threshold is losing the crop – I’m not trying to please any fussy supermarket shoppers that would freak if they found a caterpillar on their broccoli. When I do nothing, natural predators usually keep the pests under control.
Pardon the digression, back to the tomatoes. I actually feel kind of lucky that I detected the late blight in time. Apparently the disease is still rampant in our area. Just last Saturday I was at a client’s property and she showed me her sick tomato plants. I advised her to take a sample to the Montgomery County Cooperative Extension office in Creamery. When I came back to do the tree work on Friday the plants were gone. She lost them all! And these were established plants from a reputable source pretty far from the nearest neighbor.
And in Harleysville there is a huge community garden I can’t help gawking at every time I drive by. Beautiful vegetable plants of all kinds immaculately maintained. But driving by on Friday it appeared they were about to lose the tomatoes – hundreds of plants that appeared perfect up until now.
So this story is not over.