Grace Farris, 2003

Brown University

Foraging dynamics of the Squash Bee (Peponapis pruinosa) on squash (Cucurbita pepo)

Pollination is critical to the success of many agricultural crops, and native bees have been shown to be more efficient pollinators of some crops than the imported European Honey Bee (Apis mellifera). Among the native bees that pollinate many crops are specialist bees and generalists. Both may visit host flowers, but the differences in their foraging preferences and their mating habits may contribute specialistsí more effective pollination of their host plants. The squash bee Peponapis pruinosa, which is native to Central America and Mexico, is a solitary, oligolectic pollinator of squashes, gourds and pumpkins (Cucurbita spp.). This study investigated the foraging habits of squash bees as compared to other both native and non-native generalist bees. The distance bees would travel to forage on squash, as well as the pollen flow of Cucurbita pepo, were assessed and showed the squash bee to travel farther and visit more squash flowers than other generalists. Pollen dispersal proved to be related to the foraging habits of squash bees rather than other pollinators. As squash bees were the most abundant pollinator on squash flowers, traveled the farthest between patches to forage on squash, and seemed to determine pollen flow, it was concluded that squash bees are the most effective pollinators of squash.

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