Have you ever tried growing a single watermelon in your garden and found it didn’t set fruit? Chances are it was never pollinated.
Bees are the real MVPs of watermelon season (along with a lot of the other food we eat). Watermelon cannot be produced without pollination. Bees need to visit watermelon flowers multiple times to give enough pollen needed to produce fruit.
So how do we get our bees to our melons?
We “rent” our hives from Sowers Apiaries. They are moved and placed at night after the bees have returned to their hives. Each hive contains on average 25,000 bees. Honey bees are a natural choice for us to use as pollinators, as they are native to North America, prefer a wide variety of crops, and are the most prized for honey production. When at work, bees transfer pollen between flowering plants, carrying the pollen in a small basket of specialized hairs on their hind legs–that’s where the term “the bee’s knees” comes from! Fun fact: the worker bees are all female. Let’s go girls!
Seedless watermelons can be some of the most challenging varieties to grow successfully because they cannot self-pollinate. They require a seeded variety with which they pollinate. Flowers open shortly after sunrise and remain open for one day. The pollination window for the seedless variety (think similar to ovulation) must match up with the bloom and pollen transfer from seeded varieties.
A watermelon plant may produce several vines; however, they will typically only set one melon per vine. On a rare occasion, a plant may self-measure its ability to support a second fruit on the same vine.
Have you ever seen a watermelon with a split inside? That’s called “hollow heart” and happens when a watermelon plant doesn’t get enough pollen. These melons are safe to eat, they just missed out on a little extra quality time with our bees.
Simply put, we could not grow delicious watermelons without the hard work of our bees and other pollinating insects. I love going out to visit the hives and watching the bees at work. They are non aggressive and will let you get an up close look at the action inside the hives. Protecting our pollinators is an important part of ensuring
If you want one of the best pollinated watermelons in the Northwest, visit one of our farm stand locations!
Learn more about all species of bees in the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Bee Guide.