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Thank Midges for That Cocoa

Making It Grow Minute

  Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. After lunch in our Clemson Extension kitchen in Sumter, we usually break off pieces of dark chocolate for dessert. Believe it or not, there is a connection between those awful no see ums that drive us crazy on certain days and this delicious treat made from cocoa plants. Cocoa flowers have male and female parts but are usually self-infertile. Fortunately, certain tiny midges that inhabit the shady, damp natural home of cocoa trees, are excellent at transferring pollen from flowers on one tree to another. Flies are often the major pollinators in shady humid  understory ecosystems. As their larvae live as decomposers in the soil.  Most cocoa is now plantation grown, and the midges are not happy in sunny, dry settings. On plantations, only three of every thousand cocoa flowers get pollinated and results in low chocolate production. 

Amanda McNulty is a Clemson University Extension Horticulture agent and the host of South Carolina ETV’s Making It Grow! gardening program. She studied horticulture at Clemson University as a non-traditional student. “I’m so fortunate that my early attempts at getting a degree got side tracked as I’m a lot better at getting dirty in the garden than practicing diplomacy!” McNulty also studied at South Carolina State University and earned a graduate degree in teaching there.