Pretty Peponapis pruinosa: A Squash Bee for Joanna.

This is going to be my last bee painting for a week or so.

We are about to move (yet again)and things will be a bit upside down,  but this was one request  I could not resist.
Joanna emailed me recently from Canada. She is fond of Squash bees.. how could you not be!

I had written about them briefly when I first learnt about the wonderful Long horned Eucerini bees back in 2009.

The Peponapis bees are in the same family and they are very–yes I am going to say it– they are very cute. Sadly we don’t have them here in the UK and although I saw the beautiful black Mellisodes bees on the squash flowers in Leu gardens in Orlando I did not see these little stripy charmers.
This photo is from an article in Science Daily, here about how good these bees are as pollinators. They apparently come out earlier in the day than honey bees, get on with lots of energetic pollination then sleep in the afternoon.

Squash bee flying onto a squash flower. (Credit: Photo courtesy of Holly Prendeville, University of Nebraska)

Towards the end of her University degree in Agriculture Joanna published a paper commissioned by the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign about the decline of native pollinators.
She writes:

Peponapis pruinosa, the Squash Bee holds a special place in my heart and I’ve been waiting for some time now with fingers crossed that you might paint this bee, but it recently occurred to me that I could easily contact you directly and make a request. This Squash bee is a solitary bee and the females make ground nests.  The males spend their time in and about squash flowers – and they sleep there after the flowers close in the afternoon.  I spent an interesting few weeks with a professor once spending late afternoons on a squash farm going from flower to flower, opening them up to count the resting bees.  There is a mathematic correlation between the number of male bees in squash flowers in a given area to the number of females in the ground nests.  By counting the bees, the professor was able to determine how many females were in the area.”

Don’t squash the squash bees.

I can’t think of a nicer afternoons’ occupation than opening up squash flowers to count these sweet little bees.
The males will overnight in the flowers and should you wish to see if you have any of them sheltering in your squash flowers you can give the closed flowers A VERY GENTLE squeeze.
A sleepy buzzing may be your reward … but don’t squash the squash bees.
Remember they are super pollinators for your curcubita crops.

I was of course delighted to draw a squash bee. Here is the stripy male poised on the edge of a squash flower (from a photograph of a Leu Gardens squash flower ) on the lookout, as ever, for a female.
A quick sketch to get the feel for the composition:

the squash bee sm

Peponapis pruniosa, The Squash Bee

squash bee bg

Pencil and watercolour on Arches HP,   9 x 9 inches If you would like a print of this pretty bee drop me an email!

Leaf of the Day: Pattipan Pepo

The pattipan squash, or patty pan, or flying saucer, or scallop squash, Curcubito pepo, whatever you want to call it, is a pretty and versatile thing, eat it, use it as a decoration or as a fancy container for serving other food. Here it is starring alongside Joan Taylor in the classic 1949 Harryhausen movie.

The curcubita family is extensive.. very, over 300 varieties of creeping, twining, scrambling, fruit bearing, plants. This is a squash, is edible and is a member of the gourd family but not all gourds are edible. I remember a few gourds in the UK from years ago, little stripy knobbly ornamental things but here in the USA, both the gourds themselves and gourd art are big. Gourd art ranges from the absolutely 100% dreadful and kitch to the exquisite. I am longing to have a go! The shapes alone are a designers delight…. just a little taster of joys to come. These fantastic charts come from Ozark Country Creations here.

Thereare an awful lot of sites about gourds on the Internet. “The Gourd Reserve” here is a site awash with masses of information about these strange, wonderful and useful things. There is, naturally, an American Gourd Society here ( and, joy, there is a Florida chapter) and many many books devoted to gourd art.

All this for another post, possibly tomorrow, but for now this is little Pepo squash deserves at least some passing notes.
The word “squash” is a shortened form of the word askutasquash meaning “a green thing eaten raw” from the Algonquin language. The interesting and sympathetic Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island and expelled minister of the Salem Church (?) spent much of his life trying to understand the Indians customs and language, and published some of his observations in his 1643 book ” A Key into the Language of America “.
He mentions the “Askutasquash, their Vine fruit, which the English, from them, call Squashes about the bignesse of Apples of several colours, a sweet, light wholesome refreshing.”
Gourds on the other hand, called quonoasquash, were not grown for food, but dried and made into utensils and containers. You can see how useful they would be from the charts above.
These vegetables, (which are in fact a fruit, because they contain seeds, like tomoatoes) were a basic staple food for native Americans and early settler alike. Seeds, flesh, shoots, tendrils and flowers can be eaten.
Recipes abound on the Internet, but having a distinct aversion to the horrible slippery watery marrow that I was occasionally faced with as a child I haven’t really investigated many. Shame on me really as, if nothing else, these are so pretty. However after reading about them I intend to be more adventurous!.

I made a pencil and watercolour sketch, then a rough sketch in acrylics. I haven’t used acrylics for a while so it was a nice change. I think I was all watercoloured out from yesterday! I was sad not to find a couple of companions for Pepo but added a some blueberries that were languishing in the fridge.

Curcubito Pepo and 3 Blueberries.