Assessing Bee Pollination Requirements in Pumpkin

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2010: $14,405.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Alexandru Surcica
Penn State Cooperative Extension


  • Vegetables: cucurbits
  • Animals: bees


  • Education and Training: extension
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Pumpkin crops set yields only if pollinated by bees, and fruit marketability is positively correlated with bee-flower interactions. Pumpkin flowers are short-lived (several hours) and their reproductive viability is strongly influenced by temperature. Because both male and female pumpkin flowers open before dawn and close before noon, bee species that forage at different time intervals register different measures of success in pumpkin pollination. Unlike honeybees, squash bees are active early in the day and in inclement weather. They also are hairier and fly faster, which translates into being more efficient than honeybees in vectoring pollen between flowers. Furthermore, according to research done in 2008 by Ohio State University, pumpkin flowers are visited most frequently by squash bees (75 to 98%), followed by bumble bees (5 to 15%), and honey bees (9%).

    Project objectives from proposal:

    In this project, we will assess the bee pollination requirements in pumpkins by measuring the yields from pumpkin plots where squash bees, bumble bees, and honey bees will have access versus pumpkin plots where honey bees will be excluded, and only squash bees and bumblebees will have access. According to the current recommendations, Pennsylvania pumpkin growers are paying as much as $120 per acre in honeybee renting fees. This project will determine if there is a need to rent honeybees or if the wild bees, mainly squash bees and bumble bees, provide adequate pollination services. The outcome of this project will allow the growers in our area to better assess the pollination needs in pumpkin, with possible savings on pollination renting fees of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.