Buzz Pollination

I'm not sure if folks will be able to see this video on buzz pollination without being logged into Facebook.

Bumblebees use vibration to reach pollen by biting through the anther of certain types of flowers and buzzing to release the pollen stashed within. If you have a dirty mind (and I do), it's rather amusing. However a tuning fork will also release the pollen, and at the end they will tell you that tomatoes, potatoes, and blueberries have the same kind of arrangement. Which should mean that Green Wizards could use a tuning fork to manually crosspolinate tomatoes, etc.

But go ahead and watch the bee bite the anther if you can.

Madam Oh's picture

Oh that's so funny! Thank you for sharing that!

This is the week when bumblebees come out of hibernation, and today I took a damp cloth and removed one from the kitchen. She seemed taken aback, but buzzed happily off. They are endearing creatures. When they get their heads thrust deep down a flower, it's hard to see what they are doing in there. I get tempted to very gently stroke their fuzzy backs. That'll be August-September mostly, and two or three swallowtail species will engage in similar activity, pattering me with their wings as I sit still and observe. Fat yellow bodies. I transfer their bird-turd-mimicking larvae from my beleaguered lime to the much tougher yuzu tree. The delights of the world are myriad.

BTW, let me remind folks about "citizen scientist" projects. You can register bumblebee sightings at

If you do Facebook, this is a woman who adopted an injured bee.

David Trammel's picture

That's a great story.

I have quite a few bumblebees in my garden and I have watched them vibrate their thorax to shake the pollen in the tomato flowers. Really interesting.

ClareBroommaker's picture

You can learn a fair amount of what is going on in just by casually watching insects.Sometimes taking as little as a minute to watch an insect can teach you something new about how it fits with plants. For some hints on what to look for in the way of insects visiting flowers, and also to learn some other cool stuff about flowers, I recommend this old book, Floral Biology, by Mary S. Percival. It is fairly easy reading, yet scholarly. Free here

I personally am more attuned to plants than to insects, but I feel privileged in being able to share space with insects, especially in my gardens and in the scraps of green space in my city. It is an honor to be there with them.

As for tomato pollination, gardeners often will give their plants a little shake to knock pollen down onto the stigmas-- just to make sure.

I generally just tap the flowers with my finger as I'm watering the plants to knock the pollen down. In my climate it's necessary to grow tomatoes in a hoophouse to make sure they mature before a frost, so insect pollination is not as sure as it would be outside.

Honestly I don't know much about how potatoes reproduce on their own. We grow potatoes from sets and not from seed, but that certainly wouldn't produce the great variety of potatoes developed by the Incas. They would have collected and replanted spontaneous oddballs, but manual cross-pollination would let them try for specific traits.

So little time, so much to research! Green Wizards don't use wands: they use tuning forks!