Native Plants for Bees–Coneflowers

Coneflowers, purple coneflowers or echinacea purpurea–once again, these are often thought of as primarily butterfly plants.  And it’s easy to see why.  That wide, orange-y cone that gives the plant its name is the perfect landing pad for all sorts of butterflies (in fact, when I took this photo, I didn’t even realize I had the cabbage white moth in it!)

But like most native plants (this one is native to our midwestern and prairie states), this plant can do double duty. Because the cabbage with is not the only “wildlife” in the above photo.  There’s also a tiny sweat bee visible near one of the lowest petals of the flowers.

Sweat bees are just running amok in my garden this summer–and that’s a good thing (despite their rather unsavory sounding name).  They got their name just as you’d expect–from their habit of “licking” or pursuing human sweat.  And, like other bees, they can sting, although supposedly their bit is relatively painless.  It can, however, provoke an allergic reaction in those susceptible.

In all my years of gardening I can never say that I’ve known these little bees to sting–although perhaps I’ve never noticed the sting if it’s as mild as they say.  And to me, it’s definitely worth having a native pollinating bee in the garden–especially one who poses so charmingly!

And speaking of posing so charmingly, here’ another nicely behaved native bee–the bumble bee, also enjoying the coneflower.

This is another well-behaved native bee that’s docile and very hard to rile up–although the Spoiler did manage to get one to sting him once.  They will nest in our stone walls and I think he just hit it at the wrong time with a stream of water from the hose as it was emerging from its nest.  I’d never had a problem with the bees, the nest and watering.  But the bee did sting him repeatedly on his ear (bumblebees, like wasps and hornets, can sting repeatedly–so you don’t want to rile them.  However, as I’ve said, in all my years of working with and around plants, I’ve not managed to do it–yet.)

And of course, having native pollinators for the native plants just makes it all the nicer!

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