Echinacea purpurea: a Hive of Activity

Echinacea purpurea is a scruffy-looking plant when it’s not in bloom. It gets interesting when the flower buds start developing. They are very individualistic, and both the flower buds and leaves noodle around while the plants manage to stay stiffly erect.

Echinacea purpurea flowers developing. Photographed on June 25, 2021.

The flowers morph into what you expect to see over two weeks or so.

Looking out over the Echinacea purpurea in the early morning. Two bumblebees are already at work while the burr oak and daylilies are casting long sunrise shadows on the sidewalk. Photographed on July 18, 2021.

The flowers are variable within the constraint of being a mauvy pink.

Echinacea purpurea with stripy petals. Photographed on July 1, 2021.

The pastel version is quite elegant against its dark center; instead of glowing orange, it glows red.

A pale Echinacea purpurea. Photographed on July 1, 2021.

But the bees don’t care about color details. They are after nectar. The plants are pretty tall, pushing 5 feet, making it very easy to photograph any visiting insects. The bumblebees love it, as do butterflies generally, but I have not seen many butterflies this summer. It would be more accurate to say I have seen very, very few butterflies this summer, cabbage loopers excepted—and a very faded monarch. It’s alarming.

There are at least two different bumblebees that visit; one is much larger than the other. The smaller one seems to be more common.

Bumblebees on Echinacea purpurea. Photographed on July 28, 2021.

There are also metallic green bees, although they do not seem as plentiful as they have in years past.

A metallic green bee visits the Echinacea. Photographed on July 5, 2021.

I have even seen honeybees, although they have other plants they seem to prefer.

A honeybee visits the Echinacea. Photographed on August 5, 2021.

It’s the beginning of August, so things are drying out, but Echinacea is still a good supplier of nectar. The last bee I photographed seems to be a bee—it seems to have four wings, but they are not folded neatly the bee’s back. They are out to the side, looking more like fly wings.

An unidentified bee, I think. Photographed on August 5, 2021.

The Echinacea are starting to wind down. They will slowly acquire a new audience as we go into September—goldfinches—but they will not arrive until there is seed to eat. For now, there are fewer bees, and the flower are looking worn.