Thanks Be to the Squash Bee
If you’re having pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pancakes and pumpkin pie today (Thanksgiving), you can thank a squash bee.
The photos posted below are genus Peponapis, common name "squash bee." They emerge in mid- to late summer, nest in the ground, and are approximately half an inch in length. They're so tiny that you'll need a macro lens to capture their image.
A little bit about the squash bees:
- Squash bees are specialists; not generalists. Squash bees pollinate only the cucurbits or squash family, Cucurbitaceae, which includes pumpkins, squash, gourds and zucchini.
- Both the males and females are golden brown with a fuzzy yellow thorax. The males have a yellow spot on their face.
- Often you'll see a male or clusters of males sleeping in the flower in the afternoon and night.
- Squash bees are early risers (they rise before the sun does). They begin pollinating the blossoms as soon as they open in the morning. Other bee species, such as honey bees, don't visit the flowers so early. The squash blossoms close after several hours so there's a limited amount of pollination time.
So, as you're enjoying your pumpkin pie today, say "thank you" to the squash bee. They made it happen.
Squash bee inside pumpkin blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of the tiny squash bee, genus Peponapis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
These are the work of a squash bee: from left, a large gourd, a small pumpkin and a large pumpkin. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)