Wild Pollinators

Jan 3, 2020

Diane Alston, an extension entomologist with Utah State University, says the most important things for ensuring gardens yield a successful crop is supporting a "resilient pollinator community."
Credit PollyDot/Pixabay

As you may know, many vegetable and fruit producers place honey bee hives in their fields to ensure adequate pollination. A study in Pennsylvania pumpkin fields, published in a recent issue of the Journal of Entomology, found that wild bees can do the job for free.

The three year study found that wild bumble bees and squash bees, which are both native, could easily handle the pollination required to produce a full yield of pumpkins.

The researchers found that the top three pollinators were honey bees, bumblebees and squash bees. They then determined how much pollen a female pumpkin flower needs to initiate fruit production and the amount of pollen carried per visit by each type of bee.

Honey bees and squash bees needed to visit a female squash flower eight to 15 times to accomplish pollination. But bumblebees could do it half the visits. That's because a bumblebee’s body is extra fuzzy and carries twice as much pollen as that of a honey or squash bee.

The researchers then determine the number of visits and how much pollen each bee type was depositing. They were blown away to find that bumblebees and squash bees combined were doing more than 10 times the pollination than was necessary.

So in conclusion the study demonstrates that wild bees, that is bumble and squash bees in this case, did a stellar job of pollinating and honey bee hives weren't necessary for full pumpkin crop yields.

So what's most important is supporting what we call a “resilient pollinator community.” To learn more about wild pollinators, check out the Utah pest website, beneficial insects and pollinators.