An ongoing census of indiginous bees is providing new information about the abundance of these insects and their roles in pollinating squash and gourds.

Agricultural Research Service entomologists Blair Sampson, James Cane and Frank Eischen are among the researchers who document their observations for this international survey of 20 or so wild, indigenous bee species, according to a news release.

Cane, based at the agency’s Pollinating Insects Biology, Management and Systematics Research Unit in Logan, Utah, originated the survey. Eischen, based in Weslaco, Texas, has contributed three years’ worth of data about squash pollinators of the Rio Grande Valley. Sampson, based in Poplarville, Miss., has scrutinized bees pollinating pumpkin, zucchini, and crookneck and straightneck squash in fields near his laboratory.

The pollinators that Sampson has studied—primarily Peponapis pruinosa and Xenoglossa strenua—appear to have all five traits of the  world’s most proficient pollinators: They're fast, efficient, competitive, abundant and consistent in their choice of crop.

These and other bee investigations at the three labs provide new insights into how growers, commercial and hobbyist beekeepers, and backyard gardeners can enhance populations of wild bees that pollinate crops.

These bees augment the work of America’s top pollinator, the European honey bee or Apis mellifera.

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