Posts Tagged: squash bee
But among the people who study pollinators, it is.
Also known as a squash bee, it is an important pollinator of cultivated crops of squash, pumpkins, and others members of the genus Cucurbita.
Enter Katharina Ullmann, a graduate student in the Neal Williams lab in the Department of Entomology and Nematology at the University of California, Davis.
She researches them, studying their persistence in agricultural landscapes.
And on Wednesday, June 4, Ullmann will present a seminar on her research: "Squash Bee Persistence in Agricultural Landscapes: the Role of Connectivity and Disturbance" from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall, located off Kleiber Hall Drive. This is the last in the series of spring seminars hosted by the department.
"It is well documented that wild native bees can benefit many crops through increased seed and fruit set, thus providing sustainable pollination alternatives in cases of honey bee decline and increased honey bee rental prices," Ullmann says. "Yet, it is unclear how to best manage crop systems to support wild native bees. Research on enhancing wild native bees has historically focused on field border management. However, to ensure the sustainability of a crop-pollination system, a comprehensive approach should also include within field practices."
"Promoting a whole-farm pollinator management strategy is especially important given that agricultural intensification is associated with practices that negatively impact wild native bees. Whole-farm strategies may provide effective alternatives for growers who are slow to adopt resource-intensive, border-management practices. The proposed project will contribute to our understanding of these strategies by determining the impact of tillage practices and crop rotations on a ground-nesting, native bee that is an important pollinator in a specialty crop system."
Ullmann said that Cucurbita crops (including squash and pumpkin) rely on pollinators to set fruit. "The specialist squash bee, Peponapis pruinosa, is an important pollinator of Cucurbita and can reduce grower reliance on rented honey bee colonies. In-field management is particularly relevant for this species given that it nests preferentially below its host's vines. I will use observational surveys and manipulative experiments to identify crop rotation schemes and tillage practices that benefit P. pruinosa. These results provide insights into how species persist in agricultural landscapes, with an emphasis on the roles of connectivity and disturbance."
Ullmann, who expects to receive her doctorate in entomology in September 2014, researches population persistence in dynamic landscapes, and on-farm beneficial insect habitat enhancements. Her interests also include supporting citizen science, translating research related to pollinator conservation and encouraging dialogue between researchers and farmers.
She developed a native bee YouTube channel aimed at providing a direct line of communication between university researchers, farmers and the general public. In addition, she developed the blog Pollinator Farm and associated social media handles on Twitter and Facebook.
Ullmann's seminar on June 4 is to be video-recorded for later posting on UCTV.
Squash bee, Peponapis pruinosa, on a squash blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The squash bee, Peponapis pruinosa, is a specialist, pollinating only the Cucurbita genus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
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)
Let's have a pause--and applause--for the pollinators.
Next week, June 18-24, is National Pollinator Week, as designated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
That means, says Pollinator Partnership, that it's time to celebrate all our pollinators--the bees, the birds, the butterflies, the bats and the beetles. Those are just the B's. Don't forget the flies, particularly the syrphid or flower flies. And all the others, including ants, hawk moths, wasps, midges, thrips, carrion flies and fruit flies.
Pollinator Partnership officials remind us that pollinators "are responsible for pollinating nearly one-third of every bite of food we eat." And, "the global value of crops pollinated by bees is estimated to be nearly $217 billion."
What they want you to do is S.H.A.R.E., which stands for Every landscape can Simply Have Areas Reserved for the Environment. The idea is that when you plant for pollinators, everyone benefits: plants, pollinators, and people.
Take a look in your garden or a nearby garden. What's pollinating your ornamentals, vegetables and fruits?
We took a look in our garden and spotted:
--a yellow-faced bumble bee pollinating an ornamental plant, a rock purslane
--a squash bee nestled in a squash blossom, and
--two honey bees battling it out for first rights to a pomegranate blossom.
Life is good.
ORNAMENTAL--A bumble bee visiting a rock purslane. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
VEGETABLE--A squash bee nestled in a squash blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
FRUIT--Honey bees battling over a pomegranate blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Male squash bees know just where to sleep--inside a squash blossom.
If you're growing squash and you head out to your garden just after sunrise, you'll probably see the males fast asleep, waiting for visiting females to arrive.
They're native bees, specialist bees that forage in squash, zucchini, pumpkins and gourds. The females nest in the ground; the males sleep in the blossoms.
We recently spotted a male squash bee (Peponapis pruinosa) asleep in a squash blossom at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly demonstration garden next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis.
The squash bee thrust out his tongue for a sip of nectar and dew, and then darted from one squash blossom to another. His search for a mate proved fruitless that morning, but there's always tomorrow.
And meanwhile, a squash-blossom pillow to rest his head.
Male squash bee nestled inside a squash blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Male squash bee wide awake. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of tongue of male squash bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
They're up and at it long before the honey bees.
Before dawn breaks, you'll see the tiny bees gathering nectar and pollen in squash, pumpkins and other cucurbits.
They're squash bees (Peponapis pruinosa), sometimes called the plush bee. Unlike honey bees (which European colonists brought here in the 1600s), these are native pollinators. And unlike honey bees, these are solitary bees that nest underground. You'll find them from Quebec southward into Mexico.
Entomologists say they do a better job pollinating squash than the honey bees.
We'll take their word for it. Dozens of blossoms grace our sole squash plant, a yellow straightneck summer squash.
We bought the plant for a dollar, planted it in April, and already it has produced a dozen squash, thanks primarily to the little squash bees. Later in the morning, honey bees and carpenter bees gather where the squash bees have been.
It's our "yellow blossom special."
A squash bee, Peponapis pruinosa. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)