Squash Pollination

This time of year, home gardeners are seeing lots of flowers on their maturing squash plants. Squash and cucumbers are monoecious, meaning that both male and female flowers are present on the same plant. The male and female flowers are similar in appearance but the female has immature fruit at its base.

honeynut squash bud

Pollinated female flower on winter squash plant

Pollinators (mostly bees in this case) are needed to fertilize the female flowers with the pollen of the male flowers in order to develop fruit. Male flowers are the first to appear on squash plants and the female flowers follow within a few weeks. As the female flowers develop, fruit should start to be formed and be visible on the plant. But in recent years, due to the reduction in the number of natural pollinators in our environment, squash gardeners have complained of poor fruit production but many flowers. Squash plants can be hand pollinated if bees are not present in the garden.

Remedies for increasing the bee population include eliminating the use of pesticides and insecticides in the vegetable garden and other chemical lawn treatments. Suburban home owners feel compelled to have green lush lawns of grass, but the use of chemicals is decimating bee populations.

Here’s an informative article about how important bees are in gardens and remedies to protect pollinators: Illinois Extension: Good Growing–Bee Lazy for Pollinators