Melissodes is a large genus of bees in the tribe Eucerini that tend to fly in the mornings and early afternoons. These bees are important pollinators of several crop and wild plants. They are primarily restricted to foraging on plants in the sunflower family (Asteraceae), specializing on asters, daisies, and sunflowers. In fact, sunflowers are quite dependent on cross-pollination by Melissodes spp., and they are one of the most important pollinators of crop sunflowers in California. However, these bees are also important pollinators of watermelon crops in California, and although cotton is generally considered to be a self-pollinating crop, Melissodes spp. do cross-pollinate it, leading to increased seed and lint yield of cotton. These bees are also commonly found on cosmos (Cosmos spp.), pincushion flower (Scabiosa spp.), coreopsis (Coreopsis spp.), and Peter's gold carpet (Bidens ferulifolia) and are one of the only effective bee pollinators of narrowpod sensitive pea (Chamaecrista keyensis) because they are able to buzz pollinate this species. These bees possess several characteristics - like gregarious nesting and restricted floral visitation - that make them good candidates to be managed for pollination services. However, no research has yet been conducted in this area.
The Eucerini (often called long-horned bees) is the most diverse tribe in the family Apidae, with over 32 genera worldwide that were previously classified as members of the family Anthophoridae. All species are solitary, though many nest in large aggregations, and it is also occasionally possible to find large "sleeping" aggregations of males. Most, but not all, genera are distinctive in the unusually long male antennae from which the tribe derives its name (eucer- means true horned). They are most diverse in the Western Hemisphere.
The classification within the tribe is rather chaotic, as many of the genera are small and poorly characterized, with the bulk of species (~500) in only 5 genera. This is a group in serious need of a thorough taxonomic overhaul, and the fusion of many genera would likely result (the most recent revision in 2000 eliminated 7 genera).
- Agapanthinus LaBerge, 1957
- Alloscirtetica Holmberg, 1909
- Canephorula Jörgensen, 1909
- Cemolobus Robertson, 1902
- Cubitalia Friese, 1911
- Eucera Scopoli, 1770
- Eucerinoda Michener & Moure, 1957
- Florilegus Robertson, 1900
- Gaesischia Michener, LaBerge & Moure, 1955
- Gaesochira Moure & Michener, 1955
- Hamatothrix Urban, 1989
- Lophothygater Moure & Michener, 1955
- Martinapis Cockerell, 1929
- Melissodes Latreille, 1829
- Melissoptila Holmberg, 1884
- Micronychapis Moure & Michener, 1955
- Notolonia Popov, 1962
- Pachysvastra Moure & Michener, 1955
- Peponapis Robertson, 1902
- Platysvastra Moure, 1967
- Santiago Urban, 1989
- Simanthedon Zavortink, 1975
- Svastra Holmberg, 1884
- Svastrides Michener, LaBerge & Moure, 1955
- Svastrina Moure & Michener, 1955
- Syntrichalonia LaBerge, 1957
- Tetralonia Spinola, 1839
- Tetraloniella Ashmead, 1899
- Thygater Holmberg, 1884
- Trichocerapis Cockerell, 1904
- Xenoglossa Smith, 1854
The name squash bee, also squash and gourd bee, is applied to two related genera of bees in the tribe Eucerini; Peponapis and Xenoglossa. Both genera are oligoleges (pollen specialists) on the plant genus Cucurbita and closely related plants, such as cucumbers. They are small genera, containing only 13 and seven described species, respectively, and their combined range is nearly identical to the range of Cucurbita in the New World, from South America to North America. Their range has become somewhat expanded along with the movement of cucurbits into other areas (as crop plants). These bees are of moderate size, equal to various bumblebees. The pollen-carrying hairs on their legs (the scopa) are unbranched or nearly so, and sparse, to accommodate the exceptionally large, coarse pollen of the host plants. They have also evolved a matinal daily activity cycle, flying before sunrise. Some Xenoglossa species have become morphologically specialized to fly while it is still dark, with greatly enlarged ocelli to allow them to fly in near-darkness.
The two genera are sometimes thought to be sister taxa, but enough differences occur between them to suggest the similarities may be due to convergent evolution, based on their adaptation to use the same host plants.
Studies have been carried out to compare Peponapis and honey bees regarding their effectiveness in pollinating cucurbits. The findings point to the squash bees being more effective and suggest the current practice of renting colonies of honey bees to perform this task may be unnecessary.
- Hurd, Paul D.; Linsley, E. Gorton (1971). "Squash and Gourd Bees (Peponapis, Xenoglossa) and the Origin of the Cultivated Cucurbita". Evolution (St. Louis, MO: Society for the Study of Evolution) 25 (1): 218–234. doi:10.2307/2406514. JSTOR 2406514.
- Canto-Aguilar, M.L.; Parra-Tabla, V. (2000). "Importance of Conserving Alternative Pollinators: Assessing the Pollination Efficiency of the Squash Bee, Peponapis limitaris in Cucurbita moschata (Cucurbitaceae)". Journal of Insect Conservation 4 (3): 201–208.
- Tepedino, V. J. (April 1981). "The pollination efficiency of the squash bee (Peponapis pruinosa) and the honey bee (Apis mellifera) on summer squash (Cucurbita pepo)". Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society (Kansas (Central States) Entomological Society) 54 (2): 359–377. JSTOR 25084168.
- Williams, Roger (2009). "Effects of imidacloprid-based Insecticides on the Native Cucurbit Pollinator, Peponapis pruinosa". US Interagency IPM Projects. Retrieved September 15, 2013.
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