Butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata) plants are susceptible to defoliation and plant population (stand) reduction by insect, disease, temperature extremes, water, hail, or other mechanical damage. The timing of such losses may have variable effects on final fruit quality and yield. The objectives of these studies were 1) to determine the influence of the degree and timing of defoliation and stand reduction on the marketable yield of winter squash; 2) to determine yield compensation after stand reduction and defoliation; and 3) to explore effects of defoliation on fruit total carotenoid content. Experiments were conducted over 2 years in New York and Pennsylvania to explore these objectives. Marketable yields consistently improved with increasing plant population. If population losses occurred while plants were in the rapid vegetative growth phase, the remaining plants responded by increasing fruit number and weight per plant. Plant losses later in the season during fruit enlargement, however, did not elicit the same magnitude of response. Defoliation of 66% leaf area reduced marketable yields, and effects were most severe under high plant populations. Competition among plants restricted compensation. Moderate defoliation (33%) reduced yield in only one of three studies. This level of defoliation also increased the percentage of medium [1.0 to 1.5 kg (2.20 to 3.31 lb)] and large [1.5 to 2.0 kg (4.41 lb)] fruit and decreased the number of jumbo fruit (>2.0 kg). Total carotenoid concentration in mature fruit was unaffected by the defoliation or population treatments. Thus, butternut squash compensated for up to 33% leaf area loss at any time during the season. While the crop could compensate, under some conditions, for up to 50% plant losses, final plant population was more important than the growth stage of damage or defoliation for effects on crop yield.