Do Tomato Plants Need Bees

Wondering if your tomatoes require bees for pollination? We all know the important role bees play in pollination. One of the biggest challenges tomato farmers face is the lack of fruit set.

This is a case when flowers fail to produce fruits. One of the main reasons behind tomatoes abruptly stopping producing fruits is the lack of pollination. It leaves most farmers wondering.

Do tomato plants really need bees? The answer is yes, but not always the case. Bumble bees can help in tomato plant pollination but are not necessary, especially in greenhouses. In fact, you don’t need to encourage bees in greenhouses.

Does this answer your question? Most tomato farmers are not sure whether to encourage bees around their farms or not. 

Keep reading below as I discuss tomato pollination. Are bees necessary when growing tomatoes?

How do tomato plants pollinate?

Tomatoes are self-pollinating plants. That simply means they can self-pollinate without help from external forces like bees.

In fact, most plants with fruits are self-pollinating, or self-fertilizing. Such fruits or plants are called self-fruitful. You can just plant a single tomato plant and still get fruits.

How much of your elementary science do you remember? Plants also have male and female parts. Well, a tomato plant has both male and female parts. Because of that, a tomato plant can produce fruit on its own without pollination from other tomato plants.

However, that does not happen all the time. Nature does play a big role with winds moving the pollens around.

In some instances of high humidity and temperatures, pollination can be affected even with bees around. I’ll discuss more on this later.

How do bees pollinate tomatoes?

Bees can also help pollinate tomato plants through their buzz. Tomato anthers will only release pollen when vibrated. But bumble bees are able to make this vibration through their buzz.

When suckling nectar, bees place their upper body on the anthers. As they rest their frequent wings buzzing is capable of vibrating the anthers and releasing the pollen grains.

Before humans understood how bees would help with pollination, human beings used to do it manually. A vibrating tool was used in commercial tomato greenhouses to vibrate tomato plants.

The process was labor-intensive and not as efficient as bee buzzing. Studies have also shown farms pollinated with bees have a greater tomato yield than those pollinated by hand.

Overall, bumble bees and honeybees are sufficient means of transporting pollen from one tomato plant to another. Some farms have gone as far as maintaining beehives nearby. You can also entice bees by growing several bright-colored plants around your tomato garden.

How to know if bees have pollinated your tomato plants

You’ll be surprised but commercial bumble bee supplies have found a way to know if bee pollination has taken place. Tomato growers can easily check tomato bee pollination.

When bees pollinate flowers, they bite into them to suck nectar. They leave tiny but visible marks every time they bite flowers. A single bite mark is enough to show that pollination has taken place.

But growers can check for the number of marks to learn the level of pollination. More bite marks indicate a higher level of pollination.

But for commercial tomato growers, there is a lot more to look at than just the number of bites. Such farmers have to look for temperature and humidity levels.

For example, when the humidity levels are too low, there is little pollen grain germination. Even when bees land on the flowers, there is little chance of spreading the pollen grains. There is not enough pollen to release to the bees.

How to pollinate bees by hand

Yes, you can pollinate tomatoes by hand. Hand pollination is easy and effective. It’s done by a vibration device that shakes the pollen and helps spread the pollen grains around.

Pollen shedding is usually done from morning until afternoon. The ideal time for optimal pollination is midday. This is when the weather is sunny, warm, and with very low humidity.

There are commercial pollinators or electric vibrators that can help you shake the plants. Even a simple battery-operated toothbrush can help with manual vibration. These vibrations help the flowers to release the pollen grains.

Generally, hand pollination varies from one farmer to another. Some farmers even collect the pollen in a container and use cotton swabs to spread it on the flowers.

Final verdict

Overall, tomatoes require bees for pollination but can also do without them. Like most fruit-producing plants, tomato plants are self-fertilizing with both male and female parts on the same plant. They can pollinate on their own with the help of wind.

But bees are necessary and help improve pollination in tomatoes. You can encourage bees around your tomato garden as they make sufficient substitutes for pollinating.

Beekeeping for Beginners – The Basics Guide

Looking for a relaxing pastime activity? Why not try beekeeping?

Beekeeping is wonderful, enjoyable, and rewarding. For any budding gardener, beekeeping is quite satisfying. The health benefits and taste of honey itself should motivate you to start beekeeping.

What’s more, bees are good for the garden. Did you know bees pollinate over 80% of flowering plants on earth? A single colony can pollinate over 300 million flowers a day. You can imagine the benefits the bees will add to your garden.

For amateur beekeepers, the activity can be daunting when you don’t know where to start. What kind of hives do you get? Where do you set the hives?

In this post, I’ll guide you on the basics of beekeeping.

Beginner Beekeeping – Where to Start

You need to know where to start if it’s your first time keeping bees. Where do you keep the bees?

Bees don’t need a lot of space. But you need plenty of flowers for the bees to forage. 

The first thing for anyone looking to start beekeeping is to attend a course. You need to attend beekeeping and learn all the basics of beekeeping.

Search for a reliable course that lasts at least 16-20 hours. Attending a course will help you network with other beekeepers.

You can also search for a local beekeeping branch. The branch will have enough information on beekeeping in your local area. Learning and connecting with fellow beekeepers can help you learn and avoid costly mistakes from the start.

Find a Place to Keep the Bees

What place are you going to keep the bees? Do you have some unused farmland? Bees can do pretty well in the following areas:

  • Unused farmland
  • In your garden
  • Roofs
  • Rooftop gardens
  • Suburban allotments
  • Nearby apiaries

As indicated earlier, bees don’t need a lot of space. But you’ll need a lot of flowers for them to forage on.

Work out your budget and time available for beekeeping

You need a budget, as beekeeping does incur some costs. How much are you going to spend on hives and frames? Set a budget for the hives, frames, clothing, basic tools, feeder, and first bee nucleus.

Once you have the budget ready, check the available time you have for looking after the hives. Depending on the number of hives you’ll set up, you need enough time to care for each of them.

A single bee hive requires at least 30 minutes a week. Can you spare 30 minutes a week? If you have more hives, then you need to be sure you have enough time.

Equipment needed for beekeeping

With a beekeeping course done and a place to keep the bees located, it’s time you get the equipment.

Before you get the bees (which I’ll talk about shortly), make sure every piece of equipment is in place. Below is a list of essential beekeeping equipment:

  • A hive
  • Hive frames featuring a wax foundation
  • A single-piece bee suit
  • Gloves and boots for protection
  • A smoker which helps calm the bees
  •  A hive tool for inspecting the bees
  • A feeder when giving bees extra nourishment
  • A nucleus or a ‘nuc’ of bees which is a small honey bee colony

You need to have all the equipment in place and working. As for protection, consider a single-piece suit, with gloves and boots. Most bee supplies come with a starter which includes a hive and the necessary clothing.

Obtain the bees

You need your first starter or bee nucleus to start your first beehive. You need to know where to buy the bees. Consider buying your bees from local groups.

Some groups allow you to borrow and keep the hives for a short period as you monitor and decide whether to keep them permanently. They also provide an experienced supervisor within the period of monitoring.

Check local groups that offer bees for sale or rental. Since you’re a beginner, ask for easy colonies that are easy to rear.

Consider health and safety

If you’re keeping bees at home, then you need to consider your safety and those of your neighbors. Most beekeepers get stung and become immune to swelling over time. But a few can develop a severe reaction.

Consider having some epipen in case you’re stung. Talk with your neighbors about your plans and let them know you’re into beekeeping. Discuss your plans and advise them on necessary safety measures.

Understand your purpose for keeping the bees

Why are you keeping the bees in the first place? Make sure you know the purpose. 

Most people keep bees for honey and wax. But you can also keep bees for biodiversity and the environment. I’ve already mentioned the importance of bees in your garden.

You can also keep bees as a hobby. It’s an entertaining exercise that will keep you happy and engaged.

Why It’s Important to Attract Bees to Your Garden?

Buzzing bees underneath the sky, flitting butterflies, and a fully blooming garden is one beautiful scene every gardener wants. Do you have such scenery in your garden?

There is a big decline in bees around gardens. Bees are wild pollinators and are highly needed in every garden. This is one of the main reasons you need to attract bees to your garden.

For most people, bees are for making honey and wax. But for gardeners, there are more important reasons to have bees in your garden.

Let’s dig deep and see why bees are important to your garden.

Importance of Attracting Bees To Your Garden

Bees are important to the ecosystem. Bees pollinate flowers and other plants in the garden. Bees are adapted to pollinate. They help plants breed, grow, and produce food.

They ensure the cycle of life keeps running by transferring pollen from one flower to another. The vast majority of plants in the gardens rely on pollination to produce food.

Take, for example, squash, almonds, apples, and vanilla. These are plants that heavily rely on pollination to produce. While there are other insects like butterflies that help with pollination, bees pollinate up to 80% of wildflowers worldwide.

Our world will be less flowery without bees. Simply put, bees are vital to a healthy economy and healthy environment.

Long story short: If you want more flowers and fruits in your garden, you need a reliable pollinator. Bees are your best bet to ensure maximum pollination in your garden.

But how do you attract bees to your garden?

Top Tips to Attract Bees to Your Garden

Attracting bees to gardens has been practiced ever since. There are proven techniques one can use to attract bees to your garden. Let’s see some of the tips to attract bees to your garden.

Plant flowers that bees love

The first and most important step to attracting bees to your garden is planting flowers they love. Bees love a tempting flower bed. In any colony of bees out there searching for a place to set a hive, flowers play a crucial role. 

Bees will always settle in places with a lot of flowers. In addition, bees will choose flowers with a lot of nectar and pollen. Attract bees by giving them their favorite snack.

There are a few flowers that are considered tempting for bees. Below are some of the plants and flowers that bees love. 

  • Butterfly Weed
  • Coneflower
  • Clover
  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Marigolds
  • Goldenrod
  • Wild Bergamot
  • Milkweed
  • Columbine
  • Lavender
  • Poppies
  • Geraniums
  • Zinnias
  • Asters
  • Bee Balm
  • Cranesbill

Most of the plants are flowers on the list and are known to produce a lot of nectar and pollen. The plants are bee-friendly and will hugely attract bees to your garden.

You can plant bee-friendly wildflowers around your garden. This is a great way to attract bees native to your area. What’s more, you’ll be attracting bees without planting so many plants in your garden. It’s also a great way to support the ecosystem.

Make your garden diverse

You also need to make your garden diverse by having as many different plants and flowers as possible.

Consider plants and flowers that bloom in different seasons of the year. This way, you’ll attract bees throughout the year. Grow trees and herbs that vary in height.

Single flowers with a ring of petals are also a great choice. Such flowers tend to provide more nutrients and food to bees. They also make it easier for the bees to reach the pollen.

Set a place for the bees to drink

Bees, like other insects and animals, require a fresh supply of water. Create an easy-to-reach source of clean and fresh water. Fresh water is a big attraction for bees.

Before landing on the flowers, bees will get into the water for a quick drink. If you live near a source of natural water, then the job is done for you.

But if you live in dry areas, consider creating a birdbath with clean and fresh water. It helps bees settle, knowing they are not getting a thirst for long periods.

Avoid the use of pesticides

Pesticides have played a big role in the decline of bee colonies over the years. You want to make sure you avoid the use of pesticides in your gardens. Instead, consider biological methods of controlling pests.

Pesticides are harmful to bees and can keep bees away. If you’re afraid of bees living too close to your home, seek professional help. Don’t use pesticides to kill or chase them away.

Bees are a critical part of the ecosystem and should be treated properly.

Protect and maintain shelter & nesting grounds

You also want to make sure there are sheltered areas around where bees can set their colonies. Bees avoid breezy areas, so make sure you reserve tall trees to help act as windbreakers.

Make sure you preserve ground nesting grounds, as some bee species nest in the ground.