Squash Pollinators of the
The squashes (including pumpkins and gourds) are a crop native to the
Today, we know from intensive sampling efforts plus museum label data that squash bees are found throughout most of the US and SE Canada, southward through Mexico to near Buenos Aires, Argentina, Uruguay and thence across through S Brazil. Peponapis are proving to be abundant and effective, a first case for unmanaged, native non-social bees playing a key role for production of an agricultural crop at the continental scale. As a practical matter, their recognition and stewardship by farmers and gardeners will translate directly into production and sales, while in many cases diminishing the need to rent honey bee colonies.
Researchers involved in the S. America survey
It is clearly impractical impossible for any one investigator to locate and concurrently survey for bees across a series of cultivated squash fields and gardens across any country. Therefore, to achieve this necessary objective, the Squash Pollinators of the Americas Survey (SPAS) was conceived and first implemented in January 2004 by Jim Cane at the USDA-ARS Pollinating Insect Research Unit at
Data from 21 states, 6 countries and 20 collaborators indicate that one or more species of Peponapis are abundant if not dominant at flowers of cultivated Cucurbita at most locations, exceptions being the US Pacific Northwest and the Amazon Basin. Population densities do not seem to diminish with larger patch size. For instance, one 150 acre field of kabocha squash hosted one Peponapis bee at every five flowers. Locations with a history of Cucurbita cultivation are typically hosting abundant Peponapis. Some conventional farms that use pesticides judiciously in the crop or the surround area are nonetheless served by abundant Peponapis at their Cucurbita flowers. This unexpected result may reflect attributes of this particular system that are forgiving of insecticide use so long as insecticides are not systemic, and they are applied as liquids at dusk or night and dry by morning.
Additional collaborators are welcomed for the survey, especially in the western US and from other countries, as large regions and half the states remain entirely unsampled, and many more are under-sampled. The 10-min surveys hinge on the reliable and consistent contribution of its participants. If you would like to contribute surveys, contact Jim Cane for instructions. It is becoming clear that an unmanaged group of non-social native bees - the specialist squash bees - are responsible for much of the production of cultivated squashes and pumpkins across much of the
Cultivated Cucurbita Species Picture of Fruit English common names Spanish common names Portuguese common names C. maxima Hubbard, buttercup, turban, kabocha Ab?bora jerimum C. moschata butternut tromboncino C. pepo ovifera Acorn, striped pear gourd, bicolor gourd C. pepo pepo Summer, zucchini, spaghetti, patty pan, crookneck, delicata, vegetable marrow, pumpkin cocozelle Abobrinha
Picture of Fruit
English common names
Hubbard, buttercup, turban, kabocha
C. pepo ovifera
Acorn, striped pear gourd, bicolor gourd
C. pepo pepo
Summer, zucchini, spaghetti, patty pan, crookneck, delicata, vegetable marrow, pumpkin