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Fun Activities to Check Out This Weekend

Second to last weekend of the summer (by some measurements, although the summer doesn’t actually end until September 22nd, and some children have already started school), so what is everyone up to? We’re taking the oldest scientist-in-training and some friends to celebrate his birthday at a local water park, but I want to take a moment to review the location we visited last weekend.

Last weekend, we were heading to New Jersey to visit some family, and decided to stop on the way there in Lyman’s Orchards: This place is enormous, and has fruits of all kinds to pick, depending on the season. This season you can pick apples (did you know some varieties of apples are at their peak in August? Jersey Macs and Earligold are two of the varieties available at Lyman’s Orchards), pears, Asian pears, peaches (yum! Remember when there was a peach blight in 2016 in the Northeast? That was because the freezing temperatures in February killed up to 90% of the peach crop in that region. Luckily this year the peach crop is abundant and delicious!), and nectarines. They also have a sunflower maze (think corn maze, but before corn maze season is ready), and a helpful map to make sure you don’t get lost in there forever. Finally, there is a large market with all kinds of local produce-based products and baked goods to enjoy.

As a scientist, I became particularly interested by a sign in the sunflower maze which said that the sunflowers were bred to not release pollen, and that this would discourage bees from coming to the sunflowers and/or from spending significant amounts of time around the flowers. We saw plenty of bees while we were in the maze, which made me wonder about reduced-pollen sunflowers: Are they a real thing? Were we seeing fewer bees than we would have if they were using regular sunflowers? How does this even work?

Apparently, Lyman Orchards are not the only people to be interested in reduced-pollen sunflowers. An article called “All About Sunflowers” mentions pollen-less varieties (see the article HERE and a different article written for allergy sufferers also refers to certain reduced pollen breeds (see the article HERE. Scientific articles also agree that they work, but that these breeds can be harmful to honeybee health. Apparently, all the bees that we saw while there would have been even more abundant in pollen-full sunflowers. As always, the rule of bees applies: Leave them alone, and they’ll be more than likely to leave you alone as well.

Have a happy weekend, all!

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