Bees 'lend hand' in pumpkin, squash production

Thursday, October 25, 2012
Union Vikings 4-H club members visit Pumpkin Hollow, near Le Mars, for a club fundraiser. Club members pictured here during their Saturday visit to the pumpkin patch are (from left) Brandon Kass, Camden Schroeder and Adam Harms. (Sentinel photo by Jolene Stevens)

Picking out that perfect jack-o-lantern or pie pumpkin?

When you have a good selection in hand, give thanks to the honey bee -- or possibly other of the bee species.

Pumpkins, along with squash, melons and other vine crops depend on bee pollination for their production, according to Leonard Kurtz, long-time, now retired Sue Bee Honey bee expert.

Kurtz explained that successful pollination will increase not only the size of the pumpkins (or similar crops) but their total weight.

"Properly pollinated, the plant puts a food source out there to take care of all the seeds that have been pollinated inside the pumpkin," Kurtz said. "As a result, the more pollinated seeds, the larger the pumpkin.

Through evolution, a plant will provide a food source large enough to feed the seeds present.

"It's a matter of the plant not thinking about food for itself only but also food for the next generation," he said.

On the case of the vine plants, "everything centers around" providing for the next generation to come, Kurtz said.

"This is what pollination is all about, so there will be another generation of whatever plant is pollinated," he added.

Such future production is among major concerns expressed by the bee industry over a growing reduction in the nation's current bee population, Kurtz said.

Meanwhile, an abundance of pumpkins awaited Plymouth County's Union Vikings 4-H club members during their visit Saturday to Harvest Pumpkin Hollow Farm, near Le Mars.

The youth had little trouble searching out pumpkin choices during the event, which was a club fundraiser to help pay for local community and club projects.