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Pumpkin pollination thanks to bees!

Updated: Mar 9, 2023

As October nears its end, signs of the season abound: pumpkins everywhere! Pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup—and pumpkin spice lattes! And with Halloween just around the corner, spooky jack-o-lanterns will soon be all over town. All these pumpkins are, in part, thanks to the pollination efforts of honeybees!

How bees pollinate pumpkins

What is pollination?

Pollination is the process of transferring pollen from the stamen to the pistil of flowers, allowing them to produce fruit and seeds. Pollen is produced by male parts (stamens) and female parts (carpels). It contains all the genetic information that will be used to create seeds and fruit.

Pollination can happen in two ways:

  • Animal pollination, where animals like bees and butterflies pick up pollen from one flower and transfer it to another as they feed or drink nectar.

  • Wind pollination, when flowers pick up grains of air-borne pollen from passing breezes; this works well for many plants that do not rely on animals but instead depend on wind currents.

Pumpkins depend on pollination by bees and other insect pollinators that transfer pollen from its male flowers to its female flower, which we explain in this video:

How do honeybees pollinate pumpkins?

Pumpkins rely on insect pollinators to spread their pollen from their male to female flowers. It's fairly easy to identify the male flowers on a pumpkin plant. They grow on the stem, and they have have a pointy stamen covered in pollen. The female flowers are embedded under leaves in clusters of five or six, and they have a pistil.

Honeybee visiting male pumpkin flower
Stamen of Male Pumpkin Flower

Three honeybees visiting female pumpkin flower
Pistil of female pumpkin flower

The pumpkin flowers attract bees by producing sweet nectar, which the bees drink and bring back to the hive to make honey. Pumpkin blossoms are a good source of pollen and nectar, which is important to bees because it's what they eat.

While they are drinking nectar, grains of pollen accumulate on their bodies because bees are covered in fine hairs. The bee will brush the pollen onto her back legs to carry it back to the hive in pouches called “pollen baskets”. As the bee travels from pumpkin flower to pumpkin flower, the pollen from the male flowers is spread to the female flowers. This process is called pollination!

The Development of Pumpkins

Once pollinated, the pumpkin flower shrivels and the fruit begins developing. The pumpkins start out green and turn orange as the ripen. Inside the pumpkin are the seeds - the future generation of pumpkins!

Pumpkins start out green

They turn orange as they ripen

pumpkin seeds
And produce seeds, the next generation of pumpkins

Thankful for Bees

This fall, as you enjoy your pumpkin pie, take a moment to reflect on how the bees pollinated those pumpkins. We hope you enjoyed learning about how honeybees pollinate pumpkins; if you’re interested in learning more about bees and honey check out our other blogs posts!


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