Nature's Best Pollinators


When I was growing-up, we had thousands of tomatoes growing in containers in our greenhouses. One job that had to be done daily was to grab the electric pollinators and pollinate the tomatoes.

Electric pollinators were like a glorified toothbrush. A small motor was attached to a battery and when the machine was turned-on, a long metal probe would vibrate. The probe was placed beneath a truss or cluster of flowers, for about a second, to shake the yellow pollen from the anthers and onto the stigma.

Tomatoes are, by and large, self-pollinating, but if the pollen isn’t transferred thoroughly within the flowers, the fruit will often be a bit misshapen. 

But while these electric pollinators were pretty much standard greenhouse equipment, some clever people eventually turned to nature to eliminate the tedious and time-consuming job of hand pollinating.

Today, bumblebees are released into tomato greenhouses and they visit tomato flowers and transfer pollen within and between tomato flowers. Bumblebees are some of nature’s best pollinators and are extraordinarily good at "working" the flowers. 

All that I can say is, "Where were the tomato-loving greenhouse bumblebees when I was growing up?"

I suppose that one could argue that they were always around, but no one was clever enough to invite them in

~Jim Hole