Squash family plants have separate female and male flowers. Annoyingly, if the two kinds aren't open and ready at the same time, no pollination takes place, and the little fruits at the base of the female flowers just languish, wilt, and drop off.
|Two female flowers, fat yellow buds almost ready to open, sit on tiny, undeveloped squashes. PHOTO/Amy W.|
|Male squash flower in the foreground sits on a slender stem rather than a tiny fruit. PHOTO/Amy W.|
For gardeners whose squash patches are small (just a few plants), if a quick check of the plants shows a few females but only one male in full bloom, that mature male flower can be plucked from the plant, the petals torn away, and pollen-holding parts (anthers) used to pollinate all the open female flowers.
In the early part of squash season, I tend to do just that -- "be the bee" for a couple of weeks -- until I see plenty of pollinators working to take back that job.