Gardener worried about bee population

Shana Eichenberg, 23, of Williamsport, is an avid gardener. However, this year she has noticed a lack of honey bees in the area. She has even gone so far as to hand-pollinate her vegetable crop.

Eichenberg’s vegetables are near a bed of roses and lamb’s ears – two plants traditionally known to attract bees.

“You would think that the bees would be all over here, but I really haven’t seen very many,” Eichenberg said.

While many theories have been proposed, scientists still have not come up with an explanation for the countless numbers of bees dying off due to colony collapse.

“Nobody is sure of the reason, but one idea is that the insecticides some farmers use have been poisoning the bees. They notice a flower coated in chemicals, go down to try and pollinate it, and get sick later,” Eichenberg said.

The lack of bees may bring about a poor harvest season unless other gardeners begin taking precautions as well. Eichenberg explained that her garden’s yield would be significantly lower unless she hand-pollinated her melons and eggplants.

“Crops like a tomato grow close together and have a lot of flowers, so the wind will pollinate them. But crops like eggplants, which grow further apart and only have two or three flowers at a time, need the bees to help them pollinate,” Eichenberg said.

She will pollinate her eggplants by rubbing a clean Q-tip inside of one flower, and then rubbing inside of another.

“I go back and forth a few times between the flowers. You won’t be able to see the pollen but it’s there,” she said.

For her melons, Eichenberg will remove the head of a male flower and rub it against the head of a female flower. The female flowers have thicker stems, she explained.

“That is where the melon will eventually grow,” she said.

Melons are especially difficult because they only have a 24-hour window for pollination. Hand pollination should occur between 6 and 9 a.m. for best results, Eichenberg explained.