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European Honey Bees are Great Pollinators--but Not For All Plants

European honey bee
John Severns = Severnjc, via Wikimedia Commons

  Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension. The European Honeybee is a treasured member of our natural world and responsible for pollinating many of our horticultural crops. But they are late arrivals to the new world, and some of our native bees who had millions of years of co-evolution in their background, are better at pollination for some plants. The cucurbites, melons, squashes, cucumbers originated in north and south America. The flowers on these plants open early in the day and close before afternoon. The European honeybee is a relatively late riser and not very effective at pollinating these flowers. Fortunately, the squash bee is up at dawn and dives right into both male and female squash family flowers without blinking one of its many compound eyes. They are ground nesters and may even lay their eggs right under the large leaves of the plants it is visiting for nectar and pollen.

Amanda McNulty is a Clemson University Extension Horticulture agent and the host of South Carolina ETV’s Making It Grow! gardening program. She studied horticulture at Clemson University as a non-traditional student. “I’m so fortunate that my early attempts at getting a degree got side tracked as I’m a lot better at getting dirty in the garden than practicing diplomacy!” McNulty also studied at South Carolina State University and earned a graduate degree in teaching there.