Squash bee, also known as squash and gourd bee, refers to two related genera of bees in the Eucerini tribe: Peponapis and Xenoglossia. Both genera are oligoleges or pollen specialists on the plant genus Cucurbita and closely related plants, but they do not typically visit watermelon, cucumber, or melon plants. But did you know that these bees sleep in the flowers of pumpkins?
The Squash Bee is a type of bee that sleeps in pumpkin flowers.
What are Squash Bees?
The genus Cucurbita includes all types of squash, pumpkins, and many commonly grown gourds. Cucurbita plants are native to North, Central, and South America. Cucurbits are a group of vegetables. Cucurbits were among the first plants cultivated in the Americas. Domesticated cucurbit seeds have been found in archeological sites throughout the Mississippi Valley, including Kentucky, dating back as far as 5,000 years. Cucurbits were critical to the development of agriculture in the eastern United States.
Because cucurbits are native plants, they must have native pollinators. Honeybees are not native to North America. The primary native pollinators for squash, pumpkins, and their relatives are bees in Peponapis and Xenoglossa. There are only about 20 species of bees in these two genera, with the majority found in the southwestern United States, Central America, and South America. Peponapis pruinosa is the most common species in the eastern United States.
Because of their unique relationship with squash, pumpkins, and related plants, Peponapis and Xenoglossa bees are commonly referred to as squash bees. Cucurbit specialists, squash bees. Squash bee larvae consume only pollen from cucurbits such as squash, pumpkins, and gourds. Squash, pumpkins, and other cucurbits are just as important to their survival as milkweed is to monarch butterflies. (Source: Backyard Ecology)
Squash Bee’s Behavior
Squash bees are ground nesting, solitary bees. If suitable habitat is available, females dig nesting tunnels in bare dirt near cucurbit plants, often beneath the plant’s leaves. Although several females may dig tunnels in the same general area, each nesting tunnel is maintained by only one female. This is similar to how many people may live in the same neighborhood but maintain separate homes.
Female squash bees pollinate squash and other cucurbit flowers. The female returns the pollen to her nesting tunnels, where she deposits it and lays an egg. When the larva hatches from the egg, the pollen prepares a meal. The female then constructs a wall in the tunnel, enclosing the egg in its own room or cell. Each nesting tunnel can hold several eggs, each of which is separated from its siblings. Each tunnel can be a few feet deep but is usually much shallower.
Squash bees have a one-year lifespan. Adults appear in late spring or early summer and die in the fall. The majority of their lives are spent underground. The larva eats the pollen that its mother left for it when the egg hatches. During the winter, the larva is known as a prepupa. It pupates into an adult and emerges from its underground home in the spring. (Source: Backyard Ecology)