Ah, the life of a bee. We have it made. Go where we will and smell the flowers at every opportunity. You would not believe the kinds of flowers we encounter. Some are so tiny yet so delectable. Others are gigantic and potent. But today I am in search of ones that mirror the stars above, the Aster!
I overhead once a flower expert stating that the Aster took its name from Ancient Greece. They called the stars “astron”. Now we take that same meaning and call it “aster”. Why? It is because the flowers are so like stars. Their petals are numerous and are pointed just like the rays of the stars in the night sky. The one thing they have over the actual distant stars is their variety of color. During my life as a bee, I’ve pollinated ones that were blue, purple, pink, white, and even red. Some were a mixture of colors. But one thing they all have in common is a yellow center which delights us because in fact the yellow is made up of little flowers within the aster. What a boon for our honey collection!
They seem to be very easy to grow because so many of the gardens around our home are filled with them. They come up every year (humans call them perennials) and love full sun. We’ve found them all the way up into Canada. So they don’t mind the bitter colds. We get a laugh at many of the rookie bees. When our assignment for the day is aster nectar, many of the new guys bring back daisy nectar. They look so much alike that this is always a good test to see of the young ones paid attention in botany class.
We can tell who really tends their gardens. The ones who have the most numerous and beautiful asters are the ones who divide them out or then them every couple of years before summer hits. This encourages the growth and we get nectar that would make your mouth water (by best friend said that it would make you slap your momma and then she did it for him – not a pleasant sight). When they are fertilized regularly they grow even larger. My favorite garden uses the neighboring horse farm for the fertilizing supplies. What really thrills us that when we have a dry spell, the asters do not die. They tend to hold up against these temporary times pretty good and the nectar is not too deeply hurt.
When summer and fall rolls around, we buzz with excitement at the thought of all that sweetness just opening up for us. It pains us to see the gardeners come out to use them for their centerpieces. Though we grudgingly admit that they are beautiful on the tables, we want them all for us. But because they are so resistant to diseases and many of the other insects there are so many that the ones cut don’t hurt the population too much. They also seem to cut them down not long after flowering so that they don’t drop any of their seeds on the ground. This keeps the population in check though we have no idea why they would want to do that.
You should see these beautiful blossoms. Their average size of one and a half inches gives us plenty of room to set down to gather our quota. If you are afraid of heights, these are not for you. Most of them average three feet high. I did meet one that was over four feet off the ground. The ones we find in the wild are great, too, though not as sweet it seems to me. We sometimes have to compete with birds and butterflies who can arrive by the hundreds to enjoy their wonderful fragrance and bright colors. It doesn’t look pretty sometimes when we have to battle for them.
There are many varieties that we have to choose from. We each have our favorite. I love the Sea aster. Bumble likes the Goldilocks aster (reminds him of his girlfriend). Buzzman likes the Lady in Black. Drone goes for the Alpine Aster because it blooms earlier in the spring. Paul has a thing for Blue Wood. Hive likes the Lava. Comb likes the Heath variety. And Jasmine loves the Michaelmas Daises which bloom around St. Michael’s day and looks so much daisies. We generally let her have them all. Not because we think she is hot or anything. We’re just being polite. Honest!
Jasmine - I mean one of our hive
There are a few legends about the aster and where they came from. My grandmother told me that the goddess Asterea cried so hard because when she looked down on the earth she found no stars. Her tears soaked into the ground and up sprang the most colorful stars as asters. Because of this many cultures held them dear to their hearts and regarded them as sacred. They would make wreaths and place them at the altar of their gods. They thought that the flowers had magical powers and would sometimes burn the leaves to chase away evil spirits and even snakes. My favorite legend and the one I feel is the truth is that a fallen star struck the earth and scattered far and wide. The results fill our honeycombs with mouth-watering goodness.
Many people look at asters and think of love, elegance, daintiness, wisdom, power, light, and faith. The ancient ones of China regarded them as a sign of fertility (what flowers have to do with that I’m not too sure). It is also on the emblem of France. If you are born in September, you can claim this flower as your very own. Jasmine was born in September. Not that I was thinking of her at this time, mind you.
I will tell you one secret before I go on and enjoy the offerings of the asters today. If you go out at night to watch the stars, do so near the asters in your garden. Listen real close and you’ll hear the slightest of whispers that the asters send their relatives in the distant night.
Well, I’m off to see my local aster. Who knows when I’ll bump into you again. Let’s hope that it is not because I’m backing up (LOL).