Have you wondered if tomato plants rely on bees to become pollinated and produce fruit? Then this post is for you.
Tomato plants do not rely on bees to become pollinated and produce fruit as they can self-pollinate. However, not all flowers will become pollinated through self-pollination, so insects such as bees can increase the total fruit production by pollinating flowers that would otherwise not have been pollinated.
In this post, I explain why tomato plants do not require bees to produce fruit (but how they can still help) and how you can easily and reliably get more tomatoes from your plants without relying on bees.
Can Tomato Plants Produce Fruit Without Bees?
Almost all plants require pollination to produce fruit. Some plants can pollinate themselves, and others rely on insects such as bees for pollination, but what about tomatoes?
Tomato plants can produce fruit without being pollinated by insects such as bees. Tomato plants are monoecious, which means their flowers are both male and female, allowing them to self-pollinate and produce fruit without depending on external pollinators such as bees.
Some plants are dioecious, meaning they only have male or female flowers, and some plants are monoecious, meaning they have both male and female flowers (source).
Tomato flowers are monoecious, but on top of having both male and female flowers, each flower is both male and female. This is what makes tomato plants so good at self-pollination because the pollen doesn’t have to find its way to another flower, but just to its own female parts.
You can read more about male and female tomato flowers on this link.
If you don’t have bees in your garden or they are not very common where you live, don’t worry. You can get tonnes of tomatoes without any help from bees. I know because I have done it over and over again.
I have grown a lot of tomatoes over the years. Also in a greenhouse where it is difficult for bees to get to the plants, and even without bees, my tomato plants have produced so many tomatoes. I keep getting surprised every year about just how much fruit tomato plants can produce.
Below, I describe how bees can help you get more fruit from your tomato plants.
How Do Bees Increase Fruit Production in Tomato Plants?
Tomatoes can self-pollinate without bees, but bees can make them produce even more fruit by helping the flowers get pollinated.
The way a bee helps tomato flowers become pollinated is actually very similar to how most people hand-pollinate tomato flowers, which is either by gently shaking the plant or using a vibrating device such as a toothbrush to loosen the pollen in each flower.
When bees fly around or sit on a tomato flower, they make the flower shake a bit which loosens the pollen from the stamen (male part) where it was produced and makes it reach the pistil (female part). Once this happens, the flower has been pollinated and will begin to produce fruit.
3 Ways to Tell if a Tomato Flower Has Been Pollinated
Pollination in tomato flowers happens when the pollen from the stamen (the male part) reaches the pistil (the female part). The pistil is green and tube-shaped and is found at the center of the tomato flower. The stamen is the inner yellow part of the flower that surrounds the pistil (not the outer petals).
Once a tomato flower has been pollinated, there is no need for you to keep spending time trying to hand-pollinate it. But how do you know if a tomato flower has been pollinated?
Here are three easy ways to tell if a tomato flower has been pollinated:
- The point where the stem and a flower meets begins to get larger and more round. This is a sign that a tomato is beginning to grow. You can see the actual tomato within a few days.
- If the stem behind a tomato flower begins to get yellow, the flower has not been pollinating and is beginning to die. If the stem stays fresh and green, it is a good sign and once you can see a small, round growth just behind the flower, you can be sure it has been pollinated.
- Tomato flowers begin to wilt within a few days after being pollinated, so if a tomato flower is wilting and the stem is still fresh and green looking, it has most likely been pollinated
It is worth checking your flowers every few days to see if they have been pollinated. Especially if you are hand-pollinate or have bees in your garden. You will be surprised just how well it works.
Even though bees can increase how much fruit your tomato plants produce, you don’t have to give up if you don’t have many bees where you live, because the truth is, you can do the job just as efficiently yourself.
Below, I describe the four easiest ways I know to hand-pollinate tomato plants. It usually doesn’t take more than a few minutes, or even seconds, and can result in a lot more tomatoes than if you don’t do it.
Because after all, you already have the plant, so why not get as much fruit as possible from it?
Hand-Pollinate Tomato Flowers to Get More Fruit
If you don’t have tons of bees around your tomato plants, hand pollination is by far the easiest way to secure a much bigger harvest from your tomato plants.
Here are four straightforward ways to hand-pollinate tomato plants:
- Gently tap the tomato plant a few times to loosen the pollen.
- Touch the back of each flower with a vibrating device such as a toothbrush.
- Use a fine paint or art brush to collect and spread the pollen from each flower.
- Collect the pollen in a small container and use a cotton swab to rub it onto the female part of each flower.
If you want a more detailed guide on how to hand-pollinate tomato flowers, head over to this post and scroll down to the second headline, where I explain precisely how to do it.