Q: I was away for a week and wasn’t able to cut my okra while gone. When I returned there were ants on the stalk and I noticed that the small pods would fall off when I shook the plant a little. Do you have any idea what could be causing this?
A: The first thing I note is that these okra pods were not pollinated. If they had been pollinated, the pod would be more swollen. But why would non-pollination be the case?
Okra flowers have both male and female parts inside. They don’t need honey bees to pollinate them. Bees do help with pollination by buzzing as they enter and leave a flower.
Fire ants can cause bloom failure when they feed on the nectar oozing from the base of the flower. My guess is that the ants caused poor pollination.
Since only fire ants seem to damage the flowers, put some fire ant bait around the edge of your garden.