Pollinator Paradise Leafcutting
bees & alfalfa The
Solitary Bee Web
Binderboard™ New Mexico Native Bee Pollinator Project Nampa Farmer's Market About Dr. Strickler
Bee Nests and Accessories Summer Squash Research Summer Squash Diary Blog
Summer Squash Diary Blog
Read about our 2006 Summer Squash Research Project:
Harvest Frequency, Yield, and Economics of Summer Squash
squash are probably the most prolific plant in the garden, as long as squash
bugs and borers don't kill them. One
should pick summer squash daily to avoid growing baseball bats and flying
saucers. The summer squashes -
Zucchini, crocked-neck squash, patty pans, and the like - all grow from large
golden, trumpet-shaped flowers that open in the morning and are generally
pollinated and closed by the end of the day.
Some of the flowers are female, containing the pistil that will grow into
the squash fruit. These flowers
have lots of nectar to attract bees. Other
flowers are male, containing a column of fused anthers covered with large gold
pollen grains. They also contain
nectar, so bees visit for both nectar and pollen.
are absolutely necessary for squash pollination, because they are the only way
that pollen can be moved from the male flowers to the female flowers - unless
you get out there in the morning with a small paintbrush and move the pollen
around yourself. If you grow squash
and they are deformed - very narrow at one end for example, you may not have
enough pollinators; but here in Idaho that is probably rare. Honey bees do a good job of pollinating.
I've also seen sweat bees in my squash flowers - the gorgeous bright
green metallic Agapostemon is common around here.
But if you plant squash each year, more than one or two plants, you
probably have squash bees pollinating in the morning.
These are digger bees, approximately the size of honey bees, but they
move faster, and are more brownish-gray and white in color than the orange and
brown honey bees. Males patrol the
squash bed, visiting flowers to find females to mate with, and to drink nectar
so they have the energy to do all that flying.
Females visit the male flowers for pollen for their offspring, as well as
drinking nectar. They are more
directed in their flight, and not so skittish as the males.
There are two genera of squash bees, Peponapis and Xenoglossa,
and several species. They forage
only from squash blossoms. They
nest in the ground, and some of their nests go deep - as much as a foot or two.
They are more likely to be present if you don't use pesticides, and if
there is uncultivated land nearby for them to dig their nests without
disturbance. Aside from leaving
some land undisturbed around the garden or squash field, we don't know how to
manage these bees, but hopefully some day we will.
It is thought that the distribution of squash bees all across the US has
expanded as squash plants were cultivated and distributed around the country by
Native Americans and early European settlers in the New World.
Back to Pollination Moments
Top of PageLeafcutting bees & alfalfa The Solitary Bee Web
September 21, 2002
Copyright © 2002, Karen Strickler. All rights reserved.