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Bees Pollinating Cucumbers in Kenya!

Hello – greetings from Turkana in Northern Kenya…

I am up here at the Turkana Basin Institute and spent some time watching bees pollinating the cucumbers being cultivated at the institute today. Cucumbers are one of my favourite salad items and make a refreshing snack up here in the desert at lunchtime. Cucumbers are yet another example of a food item that we enjoy thanks to pollinators.

Cucumbers are in the family of plants called Cucurbits (Curcubitaceae), that includes watermelons, pumpkins, squashes and gourds.

Most members of this plant family are dependent on pollinators, and many of them have separate male and female flowers (though these can occur on the same individual plant).

It has rained up here in Turkana about a week a ago and the ground is delicately painted with flowers and the air filled with bees and butterflies.

Here are some of the bees and their antics on the cucumber flowers.

One of the first bees to arrive was the lovely Macrogalea bee, who also spent time sunning themselves on the flowers:

Macrogalea bee
Macrogalea Bee on Cucumber Flower

After warming themselves on the cucumber flowers, the Macrogalea bees dove into the flowers and as you can see were soon coated with pollen and moving it around the flowers:

Macrogalea bee hard at work
Macrogalea bee hard at work

They were also visiting the flowers of a different cucurbit (a butternut squash variety), nearby:

Macrogalea crawling out of Squash flower
Macrogalea crawling out of Squash flower loaded with pollen.


As the morning grew hotter, the next bee-shift appeared and these guys whizzed about the cucumber patch with dizzying speed. One of my favourite bees, known as Amegilla:

Amegilla Bee pollinating cucumber flower
Amegilla Bee pollinating cucumber flower


The Amegilla bees moved speedily between the different patches of cucumber plants, this makes them efficient pollinators as they transport pollen between different individual plants.

Busy Bees! Amegilla at work.
Busy Bees! Amegilla at work.


There were at least two different species of Amegilla present, the beige-grey one and this brightly coloured orange one visiting the cucumber flowers:

Another Amegilla bee hard at work!
Another Amegilla bee hard at work!

Bees were not the only insects visiting the flowers, a Grass Yellow butterfly (Eurema sp.) also stopped by. Although it was a faithful visitor, it didn’t seem to be carrying much pollen around.

Grass Yellow Butterfly sips nectar
Grass Yellow Butterfly sips nectar


The bees kept coming and going throughout the morning and we enjoyed some of the cucumbers at lunch!

Please click on image for larger version
Please click on image above for larger version

More from the wonderful world (and work!) of insects soon…



  1. Ima Ryma
    July 15, 2013, 4:33 am

    A cucumber veggie am I.
    I’m often called just cuke for short.
    Sliced into many salads. Why?
    Humans find me a tasty sort.
    My yellow five petaled flowers
    Depend mainly on bees to tote
    Back and forth my pollen showers
    From he to she – I’m both please note,
    Monoecious, a fancy word.
    Intimacy is hard to bring,
    Having beetween is my preferred.
    Bees know how to do our thing.

    Bees help my he/she intercourse
    To cuke-ulate with no divorce.