V1brat0rs for Ensuring All Your Cucumber Needs

Bug G. Membracid recently had a radio show appearance!  (Is it called an “appearance” when you’re on a wireless programme and no one can see you?  Nevermind.)

But it featured her line about honeybees being ‎”little flying phalluses” – which is really funny when you remember that worker honeybees are girls!

That in turn reminded me of a story during a horticultural study tour to a Dutch production greenhouse …

Tomatoes and peppers do not need insects to transfer pollen between flowers, as the flowers are “perfect” (have both male & female parts). But for the pollen to get moved/bumped from the pistils to the stigma there still needs to be some kind of wind or other vibration.

There’s not enough wind for this to naturally happen (or rather, efficiently happen) in a greenhouse, especially when the panes are shut to the weather. So it used to be that the operators would equip their greenhouse workers with *little vibrating wands* (oh yes), which they used to buzz-pollinate Every. Single. Fresh. Flower. (Insert inevitable sniggers from the undergrads.) Of course, that’s a lot of paid worker hours.

Nowadays the thrifty Dutch use bumblebees, who work for much cheaper wages of cardboard nesting boxes and some supplemental nectar. The big, gentle bees still visit all the flowers for the pollen, and resultant heavy buzzing results in flower fertilization for good crops.


[N.B.  Derf; “cucumbers in the title is incorrect – they DO need to be insect pollinated! Except of course for the parthenogenetic cukes, which basically set fruit by a sort of “virgin birth” process…]


  1. Bug Girl said,

    12 September 2011 at 11:29

    So, I should have said the bees were little flying strap-ons dildos? :D

    (Hmm. I may not have been clear enough I meant plant surrogate phalluses..phalli…whatever.)

  2. andrea said,

    12 September 2011 at 4:18

    The two profs and other older student (besides myself) merely smiled, IIRC. You have to consider the naïveté of some of those youngers; I recall one who was *shocked* and dismayed to see women’s nipples on television. Nevermind that hominids of both sexes have nipples.

  3. 11 September 2011 at 23:31


    Was it only the undergrads who sniggered?

    Inquiring minds wish to know. Or at least, mine does :-)

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