My social media feed is currently full with pictures of friends helping their kids carve jack-o-lanterns. I have fond childhood memories of sitting on the kitchen floor and carving jack-o-lanterns. Mom put newspaper down in an attempt to keep the pumpkin carnage off her cabinets and counter tops. Dad did the knife work and tried to faithfully carve out the designs my brother and I drew on the pumpkins with a marker. I was allowed to “scoop out the guts” which is what we called the seeds and stringy inside flesh. Who doesn’t love a happy jack-o-lantern on the front porch in October? Pumpkins have come to symbolize fall, but this fall tradition would not be possible without bees.
Here are some Halloween fun facts about bees and pumpkins:
- Three different types of bees are responsible for most pollination of pumpkin plants – honey bees, bumble bees, and squash bees.
- Squash bees are amazingly specialized, and they only feed off flowers from pumpkins and squash. Nothing else. They are solitary bees.
- Almost all the pumpkins grown for jack-o-lanterns are the Howden variety.
- Illinois grows more pumpkins than any other state. Over 80% of the pumpkins from Illinois are used to make pie filling and processed pumpkin products.
- Last year Illinois alone produced over 500 million pounds of pumpkins!
- Pumpkin plants have male flowers and female flowers. In large scale production, bees are required for pollination. If you are growing a small number of pumpkin plants in your garden, you are encouraged to hand pollinate your pumpkins. Hand pollination can lead to larger pumpkins with more seeds. An amazing number of YouTube videos exist to show you how to hand pollinate pumpkins.
I think people limit pumpkins too much. They are so much more than jack-o-lanterns and pie filling. I eat pumpkin year round. I stir pumpkin in my yogurt with cinnamon and have a healthy and nutritious snack. Pumpkin is tasty in breads, cakes and cookies. Pumpkin is even good for dogs. If your dog is having gastrointestinal problems, vets will frequently advise that you add a few tablespoons of canned pumpkin to their food. Amazingly dogs love pumpkin! However, none of this orange goodness would be available without the pollination services of bees. A world without bees would be scary.