Squash, along with melons and cucumbers belong to the same plant family called cucurbits (cucurbitaceae). These vegetable plants bear two kinds of flowers on the same plant, male and female. In order to produce fruit, the pollen from the male flower must be transferred to the female flower. Since the pollen of cucurbits is sticky, wind-blown pollination will not occur. Instead, insects do the major pollination work –honeybees being the main workers. So, if bees aren’t frequenting your garden, for whatever reason, the fruit set on your squash, cucumbers and melons will be poor.
Hand pollination, although a tedious chore, can be accomplished by transferring the pollen from the male flower to the female flower, often done with a small artist’s paintbrush. Female flowers can easily be distinguished from the males by the presence of a miniature fruit at the base of the flower.
Sometimes gardeners are concerned because none of the first blooms produce fruit. This is because the first flowers produced on the plants will be male. In time, female flowers are produced. Also remember that cucumbers, melons and squash do not cross-pollinate; a cucumber will not cross with a melon; a squash will not cross with a cucumber, etc. But within each species, cross pollination often occurs. A zucchini squash can pollinate a crookneck squash, and a Crenshaw melon can pollinate a Casaba melon. Planting the seeds from these crosses will produce fruit that will be different from either parent.