The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

New England asters are a good pollen source

Honeybee collecting pollen

Why were my New England asters ignored while my mother's neighborhood bees flocked to her flowers?  I had to look a little closer to solve this two year old puzzle.

Bee on New England asterNotice how both girls  I photographed visiting our New England aster this week have full pollen sacs (the bright yellow lumps on their hind legs)?  All of the bees hunting through our big aster bush were similarly encumbered, which suggests that the plant species is a great source of pollen, but not of nectar.

Since ragweed produces even more pollen, I'm not surprised to find that our bees gave the New England asters a pass until the better pollen source faded.  That's the same reason they're ignoring my sugar water feeder and heading straight for the yellow flowers (wingstem, woodland sunflowers, stick-tights, etc.) in search of nectar.

The upshot is --- if you need late summer pollen, especially in polished city areas, New England asters are a good choice.  But don't bother if you live in a less manicured area with lots of wild pollen sources.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Over the past few years I've noticed I don't see honeybees working goldenrod all that much, but it is renowned as being a major fall producer. It could be they simply weren't working the plant at the time I happened to look. They are working something hard around here. I sure would like to know what.
Comment by Will Green Fri Sep 14 20:36:16 2012
Will --- I think you and I both need to do some bee reconnaissance this weekend. I'm also curious which flowers are their favorites.... I hope you'll check back and let me know if you find out what they're flocking to in your neck of the woods.
Comment by anna Sat Sep 15 08:42:07 2012
My bees were working goldenrod a bit this weekend, but wingstem seems to be the plant they are working most. Pretty cool, I really hadn't noticed the plant before. It isn't all that attractive in the landscape but the bees are big fans.
Comment by Will Green Sun Sep 16 23:21:04 2012
Will --- That's what I was noticing them on all weekend too. Sounds like wingstem is the favorite (for bees at least --- I hear not even goats will eat it among larger animals. :-) )
Comment by anna Mon Sep 17 07:44:04 2012

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