Life in the Asters

We have three large clumps of Asters in the front garden. I took these photographs last week when we were still waiting for the rain that has come at last. These Asters are pretty drought tolerant and are starting to spread invasively but I am going to enlarge the border to give them more space as they attract such an interesting variety of beautiful insects into the garden.

The Adonis Blue (Lysandra bellargus) female is brown.

It is the male butterflies that have soft blue wings.

The Blue Argus (Ultraaricia anteros) female has brown wings too but has fine blue hairs on her body.

The male underside is softer in colour and is well camouflaged until he flies.

This is a Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui). I often confuse it with the Red Admiral, it is different, but at least it is in the same family.

This is a Queen of Spain (Issoria lathonia) butterfly. A regal name for a beautiful butterfly that even I could not confuse with another. The underside silver spots are really silver and iridescent. We used to see flocks of them by the roadside on our walks, but that was many years ago. I think the flocks of butterflies have been laid to rest by over use of pesticides.

This was a new find for me.

I could not find it in my butterfly book then as I looked at the thick head I realised it was probably a moth.

It is Autographa gamma. Although the moth and its caterpillar are nocturnal the moth frequently flies during the day so it looks like I could be seeing more of it as the caterpillar can feed on a lot of plants and the moth takes nectar from many garden plants.

I did manage to see where the letter gamma came from in its name. It is the little white mark like a thick “Y” on the mid wing.

The Asters provide me with a perfect viewing station for watching bees. Here this Dasypoda is just starting to gather pollen so the silky golden hairs on her hind legs are uncluttered with pollen and you can see them perfectly.

This is the best time for me to watch my little golden bee. One of my favourite bees.

It really is golden. I do not know if there are any ways to make this clearer in a photograph. (Tips?)

I think it is Seldonia subauratus but correct identification can only be realised by a much closer examination and I am quite happy to watch my golden bee without disturbing it.

This elegant bee is a male from the same family as my golden bee. I think it is a male Halictus scabiosa and a much more common visitor to the garden.

A less welcome visitor was what looks like to me an Epeolus fallax which is a cuckoo bee. This bee will follow an Ivy bee back to her nest and lay her eggs in with the Ivy bee’s eggs. As you can guess the cuckoo bee larva will then usurp the Ivy bees and hatch out the following year at the expense of the Ivy bee’s brood.

I just hope she does not find my Ivy bees in the back garden.

I have to finish with a – last but not least – mention of the honeybees and bumble bees that are omnipresent on the Asters.

Asters can become invasive but are drought tolerant. Once the flowers are finished your flower beds can be tidied up and why not pass on the new shoots to some friends?


18 thoughts on “Life in the Asters

  1. Malcolm Gillham

    I’m always on the look out for plants that are drought tolerant and attract insects. Do you know the species/variety of the Astee? Do you think they would tolerate infrequent watering in a pot?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have got a note that it is called “Audrey”. I have checked and there is a Aster novi-belgii ‘Audrey’ which looks like mine. I have never tried growing them in pots but I think they would do as well as say geraniums would manage with infrequent watering. Amelia


  2. Gosh you do have a lot of lovely butterflies and bees in your garden and well done on the ID. I wouldn’t have a clue about most of the bees. If you haven’t already got one then you should invest in a macro lens for your camera so you can get true 1:1 images and clarity – the focus point will be small, but there is nothing quite like a true macro photo.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do have a macro lens that gives 1:1. I have sometimes managed IDs using a white box and bees chilled in the fridge (freed later). However, a lot of bee IDs would require you to kill the bee looking for points only visible with a bit of dissection or with a microscope. If I can find out the family I am happy to leave it at that. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, goodness yes. I wouldn’t want to go that far. I don’t use my macro lens that often as outdoors it is usually too windy – as I expect you know! One day I will use it with a tripod 😊


    1. I see your point but that was the only one I’ve seen this year. The Ivy bees are very faithful to the Ivy flowers and I have not been looking very assiduously this year to see if there were a lot. Where I have seen them before is around the actual colonies. Amelia


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s