Thanksgiving is such a wonderful time for my family. We enjoy the traditional recipes, and one of our favorites is pumpkin pie, and pretty much anything pumpkin! The trouble is, you can’t have the pumpkin without the bees.
Pumpkins begin as yellow flowers, such as the one below, and depend on bee pollination (read more about squash pollination here). Most specifically, squash bee pollination. Each plant hosts male and female flowers. The male flowers have both nectar and pollen, while the female flowers carry primarily nectar. Squash bees visit both to get a complete diet, and in doing so, they cross pollinate the pumpkin flowers, which leads to the birth of a pumpkin!
Bees need both nectar and pollen to survive; flowers need bees to become fruit; humans eat whatever fruit results. Our survival is interconnected!
Squash bees are native solitary bees, meaning they nest alone, but may be next door to many other independent squash bee nests. Squash bees depend predominantly on squash pollen and nectar. So, naturally, they are the bees pumpkin flowers depend most heavily on to become pumpkins! I have observed squash bees face down in squash blooms for minutes at a time, ignoring my presence, indulging in what must be top shelf nectar. Watch them in action here!
Squash bee (Peponapis)-look at all that pollen on her legs!
Squash bees (follow this link to read more about squash bees) match their life cycle with the blooming cycle of squash plants, and will even go so far as to build their nests under squash plants. This is risky business, as squash fields and gardens are cleared and tilled at every season’s end. This practice, if done deeper than 20″, kills the developing brood located under many of the shriveled up squash plants. A good solution might be to designate a plot of squash plants that will go untilled and left until spring. This way the bee population is preserved, and maybe even increased the following year. This is a practice easily done in our own yards, thus building more much needed habitat for native bees!
Wild bees play a larger role in our survival than you might think. Honeybees are recognized because they are managed for agriculture, and they provide a sweet treat, but honeybees have been taking center stage! Wild bees consist of thousands of different species, and are often excellent pollinators, better than honeybees, but they do not make honey, making them of quiet importance. Wild bees are a necessary support system for the planet’s pollination needs, and this includes food production. The more we can do to help all bees and all pollinators, the more we are helping our own survival.
The topic of bee conservation doesn’t need to end at the end of the growing season. Food is a topic of never-ending importance, traversing across all seasons, and bees help us get the majority of our important, nutrient rich foods. The beauty of wild bees is you don’t need to suit up, or purchase an expensive box to house them, you simply need to plant a variety of native flowering plants, and provide nesting options in your yard. Bees need our help to bounce back and begin thriving again.
Follow these simple steps to do your part in saving all of our bees:
- Choose organic (and by this, I mean pesticide free) produce as often as you can.
- Don’t use pesticides, or other chemicals that might harm bees or their habitat requirements.
- Plant lots of native, organic flowering plants every year, and watch your yard come to life!
- Don’t forget to spread the word this Thanksgiving!
Thank you for joining this incredibly important movement!
Happy Thanksgiving to you all!