Got Pumpkin Pie? Thank A Bee!
By Marcia Wood
November 18, 2008
Would pumpkin pie be as plentiful without the diligent efforts of
pumpkin-pollinating bees? Perhaps not.
Agricultural Research Service
Cane and his colleagues are discovering more about Americas native
bees that pollinate pumpkins, other squashes, and gourds. Most of these bees
are members of the genus Peponapis or the genus Xenoglossa,
according to Cane. Hes based at the agencys
Insects Biology, Management and Systematics Research Unit in Logan, Utah.
Investigations such as those that Cane leads provide new details about
the extent to which wild bees can help with pollination. Such help is
especially needed in view of the ongoing problems faced by the nations
premier pollinator, the European honey bee, Apis mellifera. Honey
bees current troubles include the puzzling phenomenon known as
Cane has shown, for the first time, that male Peponapis pruinosa
play a surprisingly significant role in pollinating the blossoms of yellow
summer squash. In the past, less than 10 percent of pollination has been
attributed to male bees.
With both male and female bees on the job, fewer bees overall would be
needed, according to Cane. Thats a plus for growers and beekeepers
because it suggests that increasingly scarce, in-demand hives of honey bees
could be freed up for work elsewhere.
Simple lust may explain the male squash bee's role in pollinating
blooms. Unlike male bees that mainly hunt for females at nest sites, P.
pruinosa males seek their mates at flowers. As they fly from one blossom to
the next, the bees inadvertently carry grains of pollen--trapped in tiny hairs
on their bodies--with them, thus helping ensure that plants have the needed
about this research in the November/December 2008 issue of
Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is a scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of