Pollinating Squash by Hand

The following question was sent to the P&PDL diagnosticians here at Purdue University:

Question: I haven't been seeing many bees this year in my garden. I don't think there have been enough to pollinate my squash. Is there some way I can pollinate the blossoms artifically?

Answer: Squash, as well as all the other vine crops, produce separate male and female flowers on the same plant. It is tedious work but one can hand-pollinate the squash by using a small artist's paintbrush and touching it to the pollen-bearing stamens in the male flowers and then to the receptive tip of the pistil in the female flower (the one that appears to have a small squash at the base).

It is important to make sure that the plant is actually producing both male and female flowers before assuming that bees are not doing their job. Often, the first flush of flowers are all males and so will fal off without producing fruit. Extreme hot or cold weather can also cause the production of female flowers to cease or to render pollen ineffective.

-Rosie Lerner