Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

One Of The Last Bees To Visit

Is the Metallic Green Bee.
Photographed last week swarming all over the Symphyotrichum praealtum 'Miss Bessie' and her offspring. It was a sunny warm day and the little bees and a few bumbles came out to nectar.

Regular readers might remember how very much I love Symphyotrichum praealtum. It's a wonderful very late blooming native Ex-aster that begins blooming in mid to late October just as the Little ex-asters are starting to fade and continues blooming through most of November.  All the pollinators adore this beauty, and by all, I mean every Bumble, tiny little fly, beetle, small bee or Skipper that's in the garden can be found nectaring on the sweet lilac-blue flowers from the time the sun moves past the canopy trees and warms up the garden, until it sets and everything cools off.
native bees are valued for the role in pollinating our wildflowers and food crops
But, I digress! Let's talk about the  Metallic Green Bee. Their busy as a bee manner makes me happy when ever I see them darting from flower to flower faster than I can click an infocus photo. But, I must be honest with you, there are several subfamilies and I cannot tell them apart. I am pretty sure my Metallic Green Bees are from the genus Agapostemon (a true native bees in the family Halictidae). They are small to medium sized bees that are often metallic in color. Some are communal, a dozen or more females may share a nest entrance, but underground each bee creates and cares for her own brood cells. They line the individual cells with water resistant chemicals and provision them with a pollen ball to feed the individual larvae. They are the among the most important and common visitors to prairie wildflowers, and are seen flying/nectaring about my garden for most of the growing season. (source)
Composite plants produce high quality nectar
Learning about native bees still greatly interests me. They're a diverse group, they come in a wide array of sizes, shapes, and colors, they have different seasons of activity, flower preferences and nesting requirements. One of the first things I discovered when I began researching bees was how well adapted they were for collecting and feeding on nectar (for energy) and pollen (protein). Their furry bodies are pollen magnets and their tongues are well adapted for seeking out nectar in the many different flower shapes.
Verbesina is perfect for short tongued bees
Speaking of bee's tongues! Bees are classified as either long or short tongued, based of course on the length of their proboscis (a kind of complex tongue). Bees with long tongues have the pick of the crop, they can nectar on most flowers, but bees with shorter tongues need short, open flowers with nectar within easy reach. The Metallic Green Bees have short tongues and favor Asteraceaes or composites, with its easily accessible and high quality nectar. (source)
They're floral generalists, meaning they will visit a wide range of flower types and species when seeking out pollen
Metallic Green Bees are floral generalists and keep busy in my garden from early spring to late fall. Just before the last big freeze they and the Bumbles were still nectaring on the native ex-asters, the Sheffield mums and the few Coreopsis still in bloom.

They will be out and about as long as the day warms up above 50F and there are blooms on the last remaining Willowleaf aster. On the whole, generalist bees, are more resilient and not dependent upon a particular flower's pollen to survive, as long as there are composites in bloom they will feed.
The females forage our gardens for nectar and pollen to feed herself and her offspring.
What they are dependent upon are gardeners like us to provide a well planned pollinator friendly garden.
It's quite easy to do, just...
  • Plant more native plants, annual and perennial, known to attract your regional bees
  • Make sure you have several different plants in bloom from early spring to late fall
  • Provide shelter from the wind, rain, or cold
  • Provide nesting spots~Soft and exposed soil, decaying logs, nesting boxes, build a pollinator condominium. (see here). Research what they need.
  • Don't be in such a hurry to tidy up the garden or cover every piece of earth with mulch.
  • Provide water.
  • Never, ever, ever, ever, ever use pesticides. They're poisonous to pollinators.

October 2013
Now's the perfect time to begin planning for next year.

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. I don't think I have ever seen this green metallic bee. I have seen similar green bugs but this would be a first for me. It is quite beautiful. Too cold here for insects now.

  2. Interesting information and really fantastic photos!
    More frost last night - sunny but cold here today
    Hope your day is beautiful!

  3. Informative post, with lots of pretty pictures. We often get a green metallic bee up here, but yours look larger. I love bees.

  4. Fascinating and very educational post.

  5. You are such a champion of all the pollinators, dear Gail. Kudos and your images are stunning!

  6. What a beautiful and interesting bee. It looks as though they have a wide range but I can't say I've ever seen one here in southern California.

  7. Gail, this was such an interesting post. So thought provoking. I didn't know bees were classified as long and short-tongued. Very, very cool. I love the green metallic bees. They are so beautiful to photograph against the flowers. They like squash flowers too.~~Dee

  8. Your photos are stunning, Gail! The ones with multiple bees are amazing. A very informative post; I'm one who can tell the difference between bumblebees and honeybees, but that's about it. I'm learning, though:)

  9. They are beautiful bees but hard to photograph. However, your pictures are wonderful!

  10. Love that photo of the goldenrod and bees...all the photos are wonderful.

  11. So pretty and your photos are wonderful. I learned a few new things from your post. We seem to have a shortage of bees although they do show up for certain blooms.

  12. Lovely photo ! Lovely shiny bee! I didn't know that Aster 'Miss Bessie' is no longer an Aster. Oh dear, I'm too old for all this name changing -I just can't keep up. I'm only just learning to call Schizostylus, Hesperantha and now this. Let's just pretend it's still and Aster. Please.

  13. Gail what a lovely bee....mine are snug under ground awaiting spring. So many lovely pollinators which made my heart sing...

  14. I do adore those shiny green bees. How lucky they are to still find nectar in your garden. I did notice a bumble out on the other warmer day, but he will be long gone now. It's bitter cold, and nothing is in bloom. Sigh. Is it spring yet?

  15. I've never seen bees like this before and if I had I would have incorrectly thought them other insects and not bees so thank you for opening my eyes to these 'new' bees.

  16. The witch hazel is alluring, I still don't have one, though I used to have Loropetallum that froze out. We are due for a week or more in the low 20's tomorrow, so no bees here. I am getting into planting more natives, but already have areas of natives in some areas, plus have big blocks of mints, borage, pole beans, and let my cruciferous vegetables go to seed every year, which the bees love too.

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"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson