The sweet little squash bee is a wild native bee that goes it alone compared to the highly structure honey bees that live in hives and work in a tightly run society.
Squash bees are solitary bees with a mutually beneficial bond with the ancient crops farmed long ago by the indigenous people of the Americas. Crops like squash, zucchini, pumpkins and gourds.
The honeybee came to the west from Europe in the 1600s, whereas the squash bee was here long before, and can be found all around the Americas.
Instead of living in a hive, the squash bee is like a little flower fairy. It snuggles into the deep flowering blossoms of the squash plant and snoozes in the afternoon and evening. How cute is that!? When the flower blossoms in the morning, the little bee emerges, ready to embrace the radiant sun, pollinate some plants while eating, and also to mate.
This little creature burrows a hole in the earth where she lays an egg, usually close to the plants where she lives and feeds. She makes sure there is enough pollen for the larva to eat while it grows and overwinters below ground. The new bee will emerge in the summer to join the cycle of life.
Below is a short video, just 3:15 minutes long, that shows how the squash bee operates and how we can help ensure its survival and well being.
Squash bees are vulnerable to man-made hazards just like other bees. Many of them are exposed to pesticides. Tillage machines can damage larvae or young squash bees still in their underground burrows. They reach down 5-10 inches when they till the soil. Researchers at Michigan State University and partners in Indiana and Wisconsin are testing strip tillage to see if it can be effective without harming squash bees.
Although honeybees and bumble bees are the super stars of the bee world, squash bees are vital pollinators for many native food crops and a unique expression of bee life.
Do you have squash bees in your garden or any tips on helping them?