Squash, pumpkin, and gourd crops (genus: Cucurbita) were among the first crops domesticated in the Americas. These plants are pollinator-dependent because they have separate male and female flowers that require insects to move pollen from anthers to stigmas to produce high-quality fruits. The large yellow Cucurbita flowers support a diverse community of bee pollinators including honey bees, bumble bees, carpenter bees, and the highly specialized squash bees. Before the domestication and widespread cultivation of Cucurbita crops, squash plants were not found in the northern latitudes of North America, neither were squash bees. However, now both bees and plants are widespread and these plant-pollinator systems have been poorly characterized in most of these areas.
In this project, we will capitalize on the the experience, knowledge, and dedication of community scientists (entomologists, botanists, ecologists, gardeners) to plant and grow wild and domesticated pumpkins, squashes and gourds (genus Cucurbita) to compare the attractiveness of their flowers to bee pollinators. Participants will receive seeds of three species of Cucurbita: C. pepo (cultivated), C. maxima (cultivated), and C. foetidissima (wild) and plant these seeds in raised beds in their own gardens over the summer. During the flowering period of the plants, participants will collect data for 10 minutes weekly on male and female flowers and collect bee species visiting them. Collected bees will then be returned to the López-Uribe Lab at Penn State University in University Park, PA for pinning and identification. All the data collected for this project will be made publicly available through SCAN and GBIF.
- Gain a better understanding of the variation in the pollination community of pumpkins, squashes and gourds across North America
- Identify differences in bee preferences for domesticated and wild Cucurbita species
- Document the distribution of squash bee specialists (Eucera (Peponapis) and Xenoglossa) across North America
- Engage project participants in scientific research through data collection, and the importance of bee pollination for food production
Instructional video explaining data collection methods
Our goal is to recruit up to 5 participants from Pennsylvania, and an additional 5 participants from other regions of the United States for the pilot study in 2023. Participants who successfully complete the data collection from this project will be compensated with $200.
If you are interested in participating please fill out this form.