Do Bees Pollinate Corn?

If you are a novice gardener and have planted corn for the first time, you may have a lot of questions about how to pollinate your corn. After all, a large variety of plants require insects to pollinate, while others are self-pollinating and need no help to fertilize themselves. One of the most common questions about corn is whether or not bees pollinate it.


Do Bees Pollinate Corn?

Since many plants do rely on bees for pollination, it seems reasonable to expect that corn is one of them. After all, the corn tassels are entirely covered with pollen when they start to mature, and you are likely to see a plethora of bees hovering around your corn stalks.

However, while bees love corn pollen and will gladly gather pollen from your corn tassels to take back to their hives, the bees do not scatter the powder the same way wind does.

How Does Corn Pollination Occur?

If you look at your corn plants, you can see the tassels forming at about 50 days after planting if you planted early-ripening sweet corn. If you planted corn that has a longer growing season like popcorn or field corn, tassels appear about 80 days after planting.

A couple of days after the tassels form, you will also notice the emergence of corn silk on the top of each ear of corn. The tassel is the male part of the corn plant, and the silk is the female part. To fertilize the corn, the pollen from the tassel has to settle over the corn silk.

Since bees typically land on the tassel to collect pollen and do not fly near other parts of the corn plant, the pollen does float down to land on the corn silk.

Wind or Hand Pollination of Corn

In short, although it is possible for bees to pollinate your corn plants accidentally, you should not rely on bees or any other insects to fertilize your corn. Instead, let the wind do the work for you. Even in the slightest breeze, pollen will blow off the tassel and settle on the silk.

You can also hand-pollinate your corn, especially if you are growing a variety you are invested in harvesting. Hand pollination almost guarantees that every corn plant gets fertilized.

However, most of the time you can just let the wind do its work and pollinate your corn without any effort on your part.