The Bees Sure Do Like NE Aster

I’ve read that New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) is an important source of nectar for Monarch Butterflies on their southern migration. From casual observation, though, I have to conclude that Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia) is a much bigger draw for Monarchs and other butterflies as well.

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Bees, are a different story, though. Right now the New England Asters are covered with bees of many kinds.

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The two pictures above are both some kind of metallic green bee, I think. The name seems apt.

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Medium-size and smaller bees seem to prefer New England Aster to the Tithonia.

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When you look close, it seems like they are shoving their faces right into the disc flowers. Makes me think of someone in a pie-eating contest.

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The bumble bees seem to like Tithonia and New England Aster about equally.

Based on what I’ve seen in my garden, bees love asters of all kinds. I’d say it’s a good idea to have a mix of Aster species both for fall blooms and to provide an outdoor buffet for the pollinators.

45 Comments on “The Bees Sure Do Like NE Aster”

  1. I don’t have Tithonia, but the Monarchs prefer the Zinnias here, until the Swamp Milkweed blooms–at that point every pollinator in the garden zooms to the Swamp Milkweed for nectar (and in the case of the Monarchs, to lay eggs). I do have a few Asters, but here the bees and other pollinators seem to prefer the Blue Mistflower after the Swamp Milkweed is done blooming. The Mistflower is still blooming and has been doing so since mid-August! If I had more sun (maybe in my next garden) I’d plant Tithonia. You’ve convinced me. 🙂

  2. Wow, I haven’t looked at our bees that closely, but I’m sure we don’t have that metallic green bee, it is amazing. We have a Chinese Tallow tree that attracts more bees than any other plant we’ve ever had, and if a green metallic bee shows up here in Australia, it will be on that tree. I’ll be looking out this year.

  3. I agree with Indie that the green bee likely is a sweat bee. We have lots of them here in Maine, although I haven’t seen many in the past few weeks. Our unusually warm October is a bit tough on honeybees. They are still flying because it’s so warm, but there is less and less nectar available. Our asters are still blooming but I doubt they are giving much nectar now. To support their extra flying time, they are having to turn to their winter honey stores. As a result, we are having to feed our bees for a longer period this fall to make sure they have enough for winter.

  4. My bees seem to prefer smooth aster (Symphyotrichum laeve) ‘Bluebird’ to the New England aster — but that may be because my NE aster is the bright pink cultivar ‘Alma Potschke.’ There is a really nice looking wild NE aster growing near the side of the road not far from my house; I’m going to try collecting seeds from it so that I can grow the straight species.

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