The Squash Bee (Peponapis pruinosa)
The squash bee is a native, solitary bee that is usually a bit larger than the honeybee, but otherwise resembles the honeybee in such ways as shape as well as their gold and black coloring. Females have fuzzy back legs, unlike honeybees which have smooth back legs. The squash bee’s face is rounder, but the difference is slight and hard to notice.
They are found over a vast distance from South American through to North America, and their presence expands the more people grow squash vegetables. Wherever cucurbita are found, there, too, will the squash bee be found. For instance they span from Mexico through to Quebec, Canada.
There are two related genera in the tribe Eucerini. They are Peponapis with just 13 species and Xenoglossa with only 7 known species. Sadly, Peponapis pruinose is in decline for several reasons, not the least of which is poisonous pesticides.
This 2:29-minute video by Ant Lab called Journey of the Squash Bees shows more about these sweet, busy little bees.
Squash bees are solitary specialists, and the plant that they depend on for their survival and that they pollinate exclusively is plant genus Cucurbita. This means that squash bees primarily pollinate the flower blossoms of such flowering vegetables as summer squash, winter squash, butternut squash, zucchini, several types of pumpkins, and a variety of gourds except for cucumbers. Squash is entirely dependent on insects to pollinate them.
Farmers that grow vining vegetables love to see squash bees in their neighborhood. The squash bee gets busy on the job just after dawn and is a hard worker. If you want to see these little bees, get up early as they are napping by midday.
Squash bees build their nest in colonies below ground, and usually live close to the plants they pollinate. They make vertical tunnel nests and fill them with well-provisioned eggs like other native solitary bees we have discussed this week.
Honeybees are generalists, so they also pollinate squash plants, but squash bees are flower loyal and will not pollinate plants of other species. Every female squash bee has her own nest and lays her own eggs, whereas honeybees have a queen bee in the colony that does all the egg laying.
Only the female squash bee can sting, as the male bee has no stinger. She is docile and does not like to sting, so she only will if she is provoked.
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