Zucchini Pollination

I’ve been getting a lot of insy winsy zucchinis off my plants. If I tried to wait until they became respectable zucchinis, their ends withered and they rotted on the vine when they were about the size of my index finger. I began to suspect that they weren’t being pollinated.

Unpollinated zucchini

Unpollinated zucchini

“How is this possible?” you might ask. “You have 2 1/2 bee hives, ” you might point out. Well, yes I do. The problem with bees is they are actually wild animals with a will (and tastes) of their own. My bees appear to prefer the taste of Melaleuca (paperbark tree) flowers over vegetable flowers. No amount of discussion will bring them ’round. They keep flying over perfectly good zucchini, squash, watermelon, cucumber…. flowers and buzzing straight for the Melaleuca trees. And maybe a few gums as well.

Melaleuca Flowers

Melaleuca Flowers

The reason I suspect the Melaleuca is not just because my bees keep returning to their hive laden with white pollen but because my back garden is heavy with the aroma of unusual honey. Well, unusual to me. I’ve had my bees for about 5 months and on most days I smell honey (I can picture all those girls flapping up a storm over the comb filled with nectar, evaporating off the water to create honey) but that smell changes slightly over time – presumably  based on what nectar the bees are collecting. Recently it’s smelled really odd to me. Then, a couple of days ago I walked past my neighbour’s Melaleuca and smelt a stronger version of the oddness of my honey. Being a clever bunny I deduced this was where my ladies were hanging out when my zucchini flowers were doing their best to attract attention.

Melaleuca Tree (Paperbark)

Melaleuca Tree (Paperbark)

To make a long story short, in order to get a good sized (i.e. pollinated) zucchini I’ve resorted to using a paint brush to move pollen from the boy flowers to the girl flowers. And here’s the result. A 950 gram (2 pound) zucchini fresh off the vine. Who needs bees anyway!

IMG_1999

950 gram zucchini the result of hand pollination

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About Laura Rittenhouse

I'm an American-Australian author, gardener and traveller. Go to my writing website: www.laurarittenhouse.com for more. If you're trying to find my gardening blog, it's here.
This entry was posted in bees, Garden, Nature and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Zucchini Pollination

  1. Oh I really thought you would not have to resort to hand pollination. so glad it worked.

  2. I love the idea of being able to smell the honey ever day. It must be divine. I look forward to visiting a friend’s hives in summer to see if I will be able to smell the honey.
    Does the Melaleuca honey smell good to you? Have you thought about trying to get one flower honey? I’ve tasted lime (Tilia sp.) tree honey and it was pure ambrosia.

    • The honey smelled strange – sweet but sort of musky. I was worried about the taste but we just harvested it and I actually like this batch better than the honey harvested in January.

      Getting one flower honey is only possible if you move your hives to an area that has only one plant in bloom (and you have to time your harvests to empty the hive before the flow for your plant of choice starts and then harvest again at the end of the flow before the bees move on to other plants). This kind of honey harvest is mainly done in national parks here. I’m not interested in moving my hives and actually prefer the polyfloral honey and understand the bees are healthier on a varied diet so they fully support my decision 🙂

      I imagine you will smell the honey at your friend’s place. Some days you can smell it 50 feet away, others only right next to the hive but it’s a rare day when I don’t smell honey somewhere as I wander my garden.

  3. It does seem kind of ironic that you raise bees and have to pollenate your own plants. 🙂 Glad it worked and you got such a great zucchini!

    • I’m sure my bees get a good chuckle when they see me out with a paint brush!

      It’s working okay for the zucchini and squash but I have read that watermelon requires something like 10 visits from bees to produce a melon. It seems like a major mistake made by evolution to me but maybe I’m missing something. Anyway, I decided not to bother with hand pollinating my watermelon and I haven’t seen a new melon, though plenty of flowers, in weeks. Oh dear 😦

  4. allarminda says:

    hahaha!! Way to channel your inner pollinator!

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