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MORE FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Q:  I spotted a strange bee today, one I have never seen before. At first sight, I thought it was a small hummingbird. The main body was about 1 inch long, tapering to a small "bubble", then widening slightly to a "tail". The main body was a light olive color with a band of maroon just above the "bubble" which was a lighter olive color. The "tail" appeared to be in three parts: a black "tuft" on each side, with a dark olive (I think) "tuft" in the middle. I had the impression the very large wings were also maroon. I noted white legs and a long white proboscis. Would you have any idea what this could be?
-Kathy in Maine

What type of bee this is?? We recently saw it in Green Lake, WI, it was quite long, about 1 1/2 inches, and we've never seen this type of bee before. 
Thanks. 
Dawn Herzig

 

Photo by Dawn Herzig

Hi Dawn. Great photo. Surprise! It's not a bee, but a clearwing sphinx moth. I'm not sure what the species is. They are hairy like bees, but they have the long moth proboscis, they don't collect pollen, their wings are much bigger than bees, etc. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders has a photo of a related species, the Hummingbird Moth, Hemaris thysbe. As the common name implies, these moths are confused with other animals besides bees.

Hello Kathy. Thanks for telling me where you are, often that is a help. In this case, however, the "bee" that you saw is really a moth, and it's widely distributed across the US, except in the southwest. It's called a "hummingbird moth", a clearwing sphinx moth, Hemaris thyshe. Clearwings hover in front of flowers like hummingbirds, and are often confused for hummingbirds or bees. There is an excellent photo of one in the Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders. (It's photo #569, p.778 in my copy of the book, which is the 5th printing). These moths have very long tongues, and are good pollinators of many tubular flowers. Your description fits the photo quite well. Good job of observing!

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Q:  How do I pollinate greenhouse grown vegetables manually?

A:  Pollination varies for every vegetable, so there is no simple answer to this question. You'll need to figure out where the anthers are, when pollen is presented, where the stigma is and when it is receptive, and whether the plant can self pollinate, or will you need to move pollen from flowers on one plant to flowers on a different plant for cross pollination. Some plants, like squash and cucumber. have different flowers for pollen (male) and stigmas that develop into fruit (female flowers). Depending on flower structure you may be able to use a small paint brush or a toothpick to transfer the pollen, or more extreme measures may be necessary.

You should find much of the information that you need in the Crop Pollination books that are listed on my reference list:

Try also contacting a seed company or the Seed Savers Exchange (http://www.seedsavers.org)  for additional specific advice about particular crops.

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Updated February 1, 2001.
Copyright 2000, Karen Strickler. All rights reserved.