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Would pumpkin pie be as plentiful without the diligent efforts of pumpkin-pollinating bees? Perhaps not.
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) entomologist James Cane and his
colleagues are discovering more about America's native bees that
pollinate pumpkins, other squashes, and gourds. Most of these bees are
members of the genus Peponapis or the genus Xenoglossa, according to
Cane. He's based at the agency's Pollinating Insects Biology,
Management and Systematics Research Unit in Logan, Utah.
Investigations such as those that Cane leads provide new details about
the extent to which wild bees can help with pollination. Such help is
especially needed in view of the ongoing problems faced by the nation's
premier pollinator, the European honey bee, Apis mellifera. Honey bees'
current troubles include the puzzling phenomenon known as colony
Cane has shown, for the first time, that male Peponapis pruinosa play a
surprisingly significant role in pollinating the blossoms of yellow
summer squash. In the past, less than 10 percent of pollination has
been attributed to male bees.
With both male and female bees on the job, fewer bees overall would be
needed, according to Cane. That's a plus for growers and beekeepers
because it suggests that increasingly scarce, in-demand hives of honey
bees could be freed up for work elsewhere.
Simple lust may explain the male squash bee's role in pollinating
blooms. Unlike male bees that mainly hunt for females at nest sites, P.
pruinosa males seek their mates at flowers. As they fly from one
blossom to the next, the bees inadvertently carry grains of
pollen--trapped in tiny hairs on their bodies--with them, thus helping
ensure that plants have the needed pollen.
Read more about this research in the November/December 2008 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is a scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Marcia Wood, (301) 504-1662, firstname.lastname@example.org
November 18, 2008
--View this report online, plus photos and related stories, at www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr
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