5 fun facts about honey bees and high wind

High wind area

Not horizontal trees, just high wind

Speaking of pollination (and you just know we were)…

Pollination comes in three basic flavors: Wind (anemophily), insect (entomophily), or both (ambophily). There may be more types that I haven’t learned about yet – but now we’re both immune to those words from super-gardener-expert-types.

Just how DO bees pollinate plants in high wind areas? The answer is that they don’t – well, they do but not very well, until they don’t.

According to a honey bee pollination study at the College of Agriculture, University of Illinois, here are five fun facts about bees and how they do what they do*:

  1. Honey bees are most active at temperatures between 60 degrees F. (16 degrees C.) and 105 degrees F. (41 degrees C.).
  2. Winds above 15 miles per hour reduce their activity –
  3. and stop it completely at about 25 miles per hour.
  4. When conditions for flight are not ideal, honey bees work close to their colonies. Although they may fly as far as 5 miles in search of food, they usually go no farther than 1 to 1-1/2 miles in good weather.
  5. In unfavorable weather, bees may visit only those plants nearest the hive. They also tend to work closer to the hive in areas where there are large numbers of attractive plants in bloom.

The study then lists crops that “must be pollinated by bees,” including the squash I’ve been agonizing about, discusses how to keep bees, rent colonies, and the like. If I ever get to where I need to rent bees, I’ll be taking up another hobby, like mozzarella-cheese-making or pottery-throwing. Anything but beekeeping!

high winds on patio may be pollinating the tomato

High winds on patio may be pollinating the tomato

Another very readable authority on vegetable pollination is the Mississippi State University Extension Service. I particularly like their hand-drawn illustrations.

Many trees are wind-pollinated and need no bees. An easy way to tell is by flower size and brightness. Plants and trees with small flowers don’t seem to need bees and tend to rely on wind pollination. Plants with big flowers, like my sofa-devouring yellow squash, must wait for bees to come along (or rely on an enthusiastic amateur gardener with a box of q-tips).

(* bold and outline markings in quoted material are mine)