Saturday, August 4, 2012

Peponapis pruinosa Probably Pollinated the Pilgrim's Pie Pumpkins Perfectly

I'd always heard that honey bees were necessary for pollination for many of the plants we eat. That is quite true, but there are some plants that are pollinated quite well by our native pollinators.
This is especially true for New World plants - plants that originated in our hemisphere. Pumpkins are native to North America, so they have been pollinated by North American pollinators for a very long time. One such pollinator, and probably the most important pumpkin pollinator is the squash bee.
The pumpkin bloom is a short live bloom that doesn't even last an entire day, the squash bee rises early in the morning, before the honey bee, to visit the pumpkin flowers and the blooms of other cucurbits. In my garden, the pumpkins and squash blooms are full of the squash bee Peponapis pruinosa from early in the morning until the blooms close up. Sometimes I see a honey bee try to get into the flower but she often gives up when she sees it already full of these other, honey bee sized, long horned bees.
Peponapis pruinosa is a solitary bee that nests in the ground. They dig holes for their nests near the pumpkins and squash that they pollinate. This may explain some of the holes I see in the ground near the garden.
The most common view I have of them is of their butts sticking up out of the flowers.