Friday, April 15, 2011

Honeybees and Corn

While chatting with a friend the topic of good nectar and pollen plants came up. He and I have a competitive friendship when it comes to gardening. Not that we argue at all, I think it's more that we share opinions about our experiences with native plants. The current conversation was focused on Honeybees as I'd just written an article for the New Jersey Native Plant Society News Letter. I'll be posting it here later on. And I realized I'd forgotten to mention a plant. Corn!

Honeybees love corn! Despite being wind pollinated, the anthers to the plant are way up high and out in the open for all to see. The female part of the plant is down about half way to the ground and requires pollen to drop down onto it, preferably from neighboring plants.

As with willow trees bees can't help but take advantage of the free pollen. In theory they're helping the pollination by flapping their wings about and freeing it into the air, but I imagen they're eating more than they're blowing about.

The best part is you get a crop out of this plant. You'll read in books that it's best to have at least a 5 by 5 block of 25 plants to get good pollination. In truth all you need is 2 plants and you can just shake them when they're flowering. There is so much pollen up top that doing this creates a visible cloud of pollen dispersing down. I recommend for the home gardener willing to try this to stick with planting 10 to 15 plants at first and maybe again in 2 to 4 weeks time for a later harvest. It's hard enough to eat 25 ears of corn all in one sitting so it's a good idea to break it up a little. 

Here is a video showing how all the pros pollinate their crops...

By renting a helicopter!

So if the honey bees die out completely I shell be investing heavily in helicopter pollination services.