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No bees -- no cucumbers?

Posted by roselee z8 SW Texas (My Page) on
Thu, Jun 24, 10 at 22:55

The Armenian cucumber vines are 10 ft. plus tall and have been blooming for weeks, but there is no sign of fruit forming. Is it because there are no bees to pollinate the flowers?

I saw a few bees (very few) earlier in the spring and harvested squash so something must have pollinated them, but I haven't seen a bee for quite some time now.

Any ideas?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: No bees -- no cucumbers?

  • Posted by bobbi_p z8/9 Cypress, TX (My Page) on
    Thu, Jun 24, 10 at 23:05

Hmmmm? I'm not familiar with the Armenian cucumber, but my Straight Nines are producing/blooming like crazy right now. But, I'm also extremely happy that I've got quite a few bees around this summer. (I wonder if the borage I had for several months chummed them in to my yard?)

You can try "tickling" the flowers yourself with your fingers or q-tips if you like.

Found this info on a website: "Cucumbers have separate male and female flowers. The first flowers to appear are male flowers which will not produce fruit. Female flowers appear a week or so later and are pollinated by the male flowers commonly with the help of insects. If plants are indoors where pollinating insects can not come or if pollination is slow or does not occur, use a soft-bristled brush to dust inside a male flower then carefully dust the inside of a female flower (a female flower will have an immature fruit on its stem, a male won't)."

RE: No bees -- no cucumbers?

Thanks Bobbi. I'll try Straight nines next time since you are having good luck with them. When would be a good time to plant them? Should I wait until Fall?

My Dad used to grow Armenians, which are actually melons that look and taste like cukes.

I just went out and searched through all the flowers and found ONE female flower that was showing her potential by presenting a little cuke. She has now has been dutifully polinated with two different male flowers just in case wild bees or other polinating insects are not doing their jobs.

Tammy forwarded a link from the veggie forum with my same question.

Here is a link that might be useful: no cukes! help please

RE: Wild bees ...

I just skimmed the article on wild bees that was within the "no cukes" post above. Very interesting!

Here is a link that might be useful: Alternative Pollinators: Native Bees

RE: No bees -- no cucumbers?

  • Posted by shebear z8 NCentralTex (My Page) on
    Fri, Jun 25, 10 at 20:02

I strongly suggest that you plant basil next year and let it flower. Bees love it and will flock to it. Put some in the flower beds and once they are in the yard they will look around for all the flowers. Our community garden plants over 40 plants every year just to draw the bees. The only thing that they like more is mint but you have to contain that.

RE: No bees -- no cucumbers?

Thanks Shebear. Good advice that I appreciate, but I've got lots of plants that honey bees love. There just aren't any bees out there to come to them. Evidently there are no bee keepers within miles of my house and no wild hives in the woods. Is this due to Colony Collapse Disorder? I don't know. My yard used to be alive with honey bees everywhere.

Since I don't spray I do have a few wild bees and I see a bumble bee once in a while so I'm hoping they will increase.

But I'm taking your words to heart and will let the basil flower. I hadn't realized it was a favorite of honey bees. Hmmm, wonder how basil honey tastes?

Here is a link that might be useful: How far do bees travel ...

RE: Bees will go out of their way ...

The article linked above says bees will travel far out of their way to get to their favorite plants. Can't wait until the basil blooms to see what it attracts.

Insects do indeed have preferences. A certain type of bumblebee I never see on anything else comes to Passi foetida "Love in a Mist" four and five strong at a time.

When fennel blooms there is a certain black and white striped wasp that comes to that only. Otherwise I never see it.

RE: No bees -- no cucumbers?

That is strange as I use to work offshore and upon returning one summer the weeds were about 18 high and I found cucumbers in the weeds on my Armenian cucumbers, but then that was the last time I grew them as we moved. I only had the one vine. I had the same luck with my Spanish melons that year. But then that doesn't help much but if you enjoy them so much I would just keep trying anyway but expand your selection to be sure.

RE: No bees -- no cucumbers?


Sounds like you may need to hand pollinate. I'm so glad you posted your question because I hadn't even thought about this potential problem. I planted a pickling type cucumber this year (first time) and have just gotten my first one which is nearly ready to pick. Actually I'm not sure how one knows WHEN to harvest them.
Anyway, I googled your question and found a site on hand pollinating and another which made suggestions of which companion plants attract honey bees to cucumbers. I realized that I had inadvertently done a good thing by allowing my cilantro plants (which were next to my cucumber) and nearby spearmint to go to flower. But I may need to plant some more since those are now eaten by grasshoppers. Anyway, here's what I googled:

Be patient with squash and cucumber plants, advised Myers. Eventually, most will produce both male and female flowers. Once blossoms of both sexes are opening, and there is still no fruit formation, there may be poor pollination.

Sometimes Mother Nature needs help, if you have a shortage of pollinators. Home gardeners can pollinate the flowers themselves. Use a small watercolor paintbrush and lightly transfer pollen from male flowers to the female flowers.

Once fruit develops keep the plants well watered. And don't let cucumbers or summer squash get too big - their quality may deteriorate.

Research in the OSU Department of Horticulture has shown that growing cilantro, yarrow, wild buckwheat, white sweet clover, tansy, sweet fennel, sweet alyssum, spearmint, Queen Anne's lace, hairy vetch, flowering buckwheat, crimson clover, cowpeas, common knotweed and caraway attracts pollinators and other beneficial insects such as natural predators.

Hand pollinating

Here is a link that might be useful: Hand pollinating cucumbers

RE: No bees -- no cucumbers?

Thank your for the encouragement Wally.

Wings, I checked out the hand pollinating link. Thank you.

The one female flower that was pollinated by introducing 'her' to two male flower is growing :-) Couldn't find anymore female flowers although the vine has many males. It has been given more organic fertilizer and watered. Hoping that might induce it to produce more female flowers.

BTW, I found two pretty good size butternut squash hidden among the foliage of the vine that volunteered so that's encouraging.

I still have not seen a honey bee even though I have the flowers growing that are recommended in the link above to attract them.

RE: No bees -- no cucumbers?

The European Honey Bee is not the only pollinator. It is not a native NA insect. It was introduced. It is also the only pollinator that can be cheaply managed commercially and also the absolute only one that produces a cash crop as a by product to pollination. That is why you here so much about it. Cucumbers, squash, etc are heavy pollen producers and negligible nectar producers. Unless there is a dearth of pollen in the hive (which there is rarely) bees will work plants according to nectar production. As long as there are plants producing more nectar or a higher quality nectar than the desired crop, they will really never go after the desired crop. And it is hard to fool them into working a low nectar producing plant. If they didn;t have a preference for the higher nectar producing plants, they wouldn't be able to store enoug honey for the winter.

This is why hives are placed in the center of the target crops so weeds and other plants don;t compete for the bees attention.

I would look at finding a hybrid cuke that produces female flowers only. They always include a few standard plants to ensure pollination. But cukes, squash etc always produce exponentially more male flowers than fruit bearing female flowers.

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