Anyone else having to hand pollinate more this year?

elisa_z5July 12, 2014

My squash always did fine with natural pollination, and this year I've noticed a few rotting when small, so I've started to hand pollinate.

My garden used to be buzzing with bees in the morning, and now it's quiet. I thought we were safe from the bee issues going on in places with lots of agriculture or lots of development -- nothing but hay fields, mountains, and grazing land around here. And still, the bees seem to be so much lower in numbers. Plus, I thought the bee colony collapse issues was only "domestic" honey bees, and not wild bees.

Could it be our minus 45 degrees last winter? (MUCH colder than ususal)

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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

I have been pollinating melons, squash, and pumpkins. I have a tremendous amount of white clover that has few bees this year.

The bee situation seems to have many causes...parasites, seed coatings, and gardener poisons.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 11:46AM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Not many bees here either. There have always been a lot of ground dwelling bees on my property, but not as many this year. The bumblebees in particular are scarce, and they pollinate my runner beans & limas.

The severe cold of last winter's "polar vortex" might be responsible for the shortage of bees in general. But I think that it is equally likely that ground dwelling bees were drowned by the above-normal rainfall that followed, at least in the upper Midwest. My rural garden flooded three times this year, when it usually only floods during the spring thaw. It has yet to dry out completely, and the rain continues (more on the way to my location now).

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 4:05PM
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seed coatings? Could you explain that wayne? By the way, I'm coming to your house this year because I never got sweet corn planted :) (I planted polenta corn instead)

I was in the D.C. area last week, and there were so many yellow jackets in the clover it was scary to walk in the grass. Here I have loads of clover, too, and no bees.

I was thinking I should plant a bed of leeks just to let them go to seed, since bees love them so much.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 10:34PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I've never hand pollinated but I haven't been growing squash for some time. My plants are just starting to flower, so I need to check them. If they're pollinated, you'd see a fruit developing after the flower, right?

My bush beans are developing pods, does that represent bees pollinating or are they self pollinating?

Not many bees here this year either. I haven't been spending a lot of time in the garden though, but today I'm going to check it all out.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 5:10AM
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At my house the leaf cutter bees are much more numerous than unusual, while other wild bees seem to be coming and going in waves. Not many squash bees, tho. Like Elisa, my area is not heavily impacted by pesticides, so I'm attributing it to weather and insect mysteries. A loud species is coming in to take care of the squash before the sun hits it, at around 8 am. Honeybees are showing up to work the clover later in the day, from midday to midafternoon.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 6:49AM
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Last year, we were hand pollinating a lot but, luckily, our neighbor is now raising honeybees. They love our garden.

Our area isn't heavily impacted by pesticides either - I have no idea why all the bumblebees have disappeared. I think I've seen a total of three or four this year. Even the borer bees are fewer in number (now that's OK with me - I'm still finding and fixing holes everywhere).

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 7:00AM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

elisa, The seed coating thing is a dusty material farmers have on their of the modern technologies. Perhaps in pouring it, it gets in the air.

prairiemoon, Yes, the fruits will grow larger EVERY day when pollinated...not just a day or two. Beans are internally pollinated with or without bees I believe.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 7:52AM
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loribee2(CA 9)

Hmm, Northern California here in the middle of agriculture, lots of hay and alfalfa, strawberry farms and, of course, wineries. I have plenty of bees. I live a block from a State University that has an ag department. Maybe they are doing something over there to keep the bees going. I've never had to hand pollinate anything.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 8:55AM
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loribee --I think of N. CA agriculture as more diverse and healthy than mid west ag, (maybe just my impression?) and if there's someone nearby who depends on pollinators for a harvest, maybe they're importing honey bees? (I've read that there are traveling honey bee keepers that visit the farms at pollination time.) Nice to have plenty of bees!

My husband "mowed" the lawn yesterday -- mowed about half of it and left creative large circles of it to grow long and let the wildflowers already growing there get tall as hay! I say anything for the bees this year.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 11:15AM
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theforgottenone1013(MI zone 5b/6a)

Haven't noticed any honeybees around here. I have seen bumblebees, plenty of carpenter bees (I have a love/hate thing going on with them), wasps, hornets, and hoverflies. No hand pollination necessary for me.


    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 12:52PM
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Peter1142(Zone 6b)

The honeybees have finally found my squash patch, very happy about that. Earlier in the year I was getting nothing, a couple of carpenter bees too late to the party. I'm in a fairly rural section of SE NY.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 3:31PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Thanks Wayne! I did get out to the garden today and what do you know -- I have summer squash! Costata Romanesca. A pretty good size squash, about 6 inches long with the green striping already showing, so I think it's started producing. I see another smaller one that might be coming along. Happy about that!

I did see Bumble Bees among the Nepeta and a couple of Honey Bees on Thyme. A few wasps. I wasn't sitting still for long and not focused on it but I'm glad I have some bee activity.

Cucumbers have flowers in just the past few days, so I'll be curious to see if those are pollinated and develop fruit in the next week.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 3:41PM
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I'll tell you what... My husband and I are trying to buy our first piece of property. It will be a good piece, wherever it is and you can bet your bottom dollar that maybe a year or two after I get my garden started, I'm going to start raising honeybees. I think if you have the space so your neighbours aren't overwhelmed by an increase in bee population (small cookie-cutter houses, lots of kids around, sprinklers, possible stings, etc.) then learning about and then raising bees is a real service to the local farming community. Not only that, but you can charge people to "baby sit" a colony of honey bees for a bit just for pollination purposes, so long as their garden is organic, no pesticides, etc. :) Why not remind people of the service and importance of bees?

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 3:54PM
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