On this mild 81-degree F. day in early September, the significant needs of viable plants in our yards and gardens are being met. Let’s consider a topic that may impact harvest.
Vines of cucumbers and squash in the home garden have had many flowers this season and unusually few vegetables. Are there enough pollinators?
Mosquitos and gnats haven’t been a bother this season. Sevin, that “kills over 100 pests” was used only once in green bean beetle desperation. It’s about the time for migrating butterflies. The yard has several kinds of flowering plants that draw pollinators, but so far, not many butterflies. Little garden pollinator information seems to be available.
Luckily, Monarch butterfly studies may be helpful to find out what’s up with those pollinators. Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch from the Monarch Joint Venture website wrote about weather and Monarchs. Weather information for a region is grouped in about 30-year intervals so that trends may be found.
Weather impacts the bodies of insects individually and their numbers. When insects are compared with weather trends, we may understand more about Monarchs and maybe other pollinators. For Monarchs, their developmental range of temperature is 52.7F – 91.2F. Their optimal operating temperature is about 84 degrees F. Temperatures above and below result in their amount of activity, need for additional nectar, and possibly shortened lifespans and fewer offspring.
Weather also impacts other factors such as the plants that provide Monarch’s food and shelter. Windspeed and timing of late and early frosts affect Monarch bodies and numbers. Weather conditions along the migration from Mexico to the Upper Midwest can impact Monarch along the route. Drought has an impact too.
When we think of factors that may influence pollinators and their numbers in our garden, maybe we consider climate change mitigation for the sake of Monarchs and all.
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? Squash naturally produces more flowers than fruits. Cucumber does the same, although the seemingly extra flowers are not as obvious because they are smaller and clustered. The majority of flowers are male, so do not produce fruit. They are just there to pollinate the female flowers. When I was a kid, my great grandmother fried zucchini or other squash flowers with batter. fiori di zucca fritti. She took only the superfluous male flowers, and left the female flowers with developing fruits. Female flowers shriveled after pollination anyway.