National Sneak Some Zucchini onto your Neighbors Porch Day
It’s mid August, and most people with gardens are over-run with squash and zucchini. There are many jokes are trying to foist your extras off on other people. This year I learned that there is actually a holiday for this, National Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbors Porch day (http://www.nationaldaycalendar.com/national-sneak-some-zucchini-into-your-neighbors-porch-day-august-8/)! I didn’t learn about it in time to celebrate this year, but next year I will be participating.
Squash and zucchini are fruits, and, therefore, need to be pollinated. They are pollinated by bees. In fact, they are in the genera Peponapis and Xenoglossa, and they are one of the most important pollinators in agriculture. These bees also pollinate pumpkins and other winter squashes.
If you have squash plants of any sort, you can mostly likely find these bees in the flower in the early to mid morning. I find them every time I look in the morning. While they are similar size to honey bees, there are several distinguishing features that can help you tell the difference. The best one is that the squash bees have longer, darker antennae.
They also have dark rear ends with more defined stripes.
As you can see in the last photo, you will often see the bee with it butt up and it’s face in the flower. They are drawn to the nectar at the bottom of the flower. In fact, they are using their extra long, forked tongues to lap up it up. Below is a picture of the bee’s tongue. Because I was focusing on the tongue, the bee is just a black blob, but you can see the forked tongue licking the bottom of the flower!
And one more just cause it’s cool.
They move their tongues all around the base of the flower, lapping up all the nectar. It is mostly the female bees that do this. The male bees fly around from flower to flower looking for a mate. The females nest alone, digging 1-2 ft burrows with chambers at the end. They lay their eggs in the chambers and provision them with pollen bundles. If you watch the loose dirt areas of your yard or open space, you can often locate the nests of ground nesting bees, including squash bees. Just be careful walking over them!
Interestingly, after a frenzied morning, the bees go to sleep in the flowers which wilt and close the bees safely inside. I discovered this when I picked a wilted flower and 3 bees started buzzing inside! A little research showed that this is a common behavior for this bees and not a mistake. So be careful with wilted blossoms. And remember to thank the squash bees if you are the recipient of National Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbors Porch day.