I have a new found appreciations for bees and other pollinators. The magnolia is such an ancient species that it is pollinated by a beetle because bees didn’t exist when the species first evolved. Here in Madagascar certain lemurs pollinate trees by having the pollen cling to their fur.
Unfortunately the bee that pollinates the vanilla native to Madagascar doesn’t exist here. This means to produce vanilla the farmers have to pollinate the flowers themselves. This ends up being a labor intensive process.
The vanilla flower is a species of orchid that lives for just one day. This means that farmers must visit their vanilla fields everyday to pollinate the flowers. Each flower that is pollinated becomes a vanilla bean. If you miss one one day that valuable money the farmer won’t get.
To pollinate you hold the flower in your left hand with your thumb on the bottom and your pointer finger on the back. You your right hand to pull the petals down. Then you use a thorn or nail to lift up and transfer the pollen to the appropriate part of the plant. Use your left pointer figure and right thumb to press the pollen in to make sure it sticks.
You repeat this over and over again. For example my host dad has about 800 vanilla vines. A large, healthy vine can produce up to 150 flowers.
So go out and thank your favorite pollinator, be it butterfly, bird, nettle or bee! And maybe consider planting some food for them as well. If our pollinators die out we will either lose our plants or spend a lot of time pollinating things ourselves.