I have several times mentioned the importance of natural pollinators in providing our food, but strangely, if all of the pollinators disappeared, we would still have tomatoes. Tomato plants don’t depend on insect pollinators to develop their fruit, because they are self-pollinating, instead they depend upon wind or the shaking of their flowers to pollinate.
When I was in my youth I had summer jobs working in my grandfather’s commercial greenhouse. There wasn’t wind inside the large greenhouses, and so to make sure that the tomato flowers got pollinated, it was done by hand. One of the easy jobs I sometimes did was to “buzz” the tomato flowers. Holding a battery-run device with a wire prong that protruded from the handle, I would work my way through the rows of tomatoes, touching the prong to the tomato bloom, I then pressed a button which caused the prong to vibrate, thus shaking the flower.
In my greenhouse, I used to bang the overhead wires that held the twine that supported my tomato plants and that would shake the plants and their flowers. Then I heard on CBC radio about a greenhouse in the Arctic where they used an electric toothbrush to buzz the tomato flowers. I had an old electric tooth-brush, so I started doing the same thing.
I just hold the end of the toothbrush to the edge of the bloom and press the button and it shakes the flower. The flowers should be pollenated in the cool of the morning to be most effective. I don’t know how many more tomatoes I get by pollinating them by hand compared to just letting the tomato plants alone, but I want to make sure I get as many tomatoes as I can, so buzzing each bloom seems like good insurance.