Spanish Needles, Bidens alba


In this article, we delve into the enigmatic realm of Bidens alba, a plant widely distributed across the Americas. We explore its intricate relationship with its pollinators, which include a diverse array of insects, among them bees, butterflies, and moths. In our journey through the mysterious and playful world of Bidens alba, we will shed light on the crucial role these pollinators play in the life cycle of this seemingly ordinary plant.

The Eerie Dance

In the shadows of the meadows, fields, and open woods where Bidens alba flourishes, an eerie dance of life unfolds. The plant, known for its delicate white flowers with yellow centers, has long been admired for its beauty. Yet, beneath its charm lies a fascinating interplay between the plant and its nocturnal pollinators, each participant taking part in a ritual that ensures their survival.

Tis no weed, bish!

Skelly 2018

Unmasking the Mystery

While the Bidens alba is known to attract a range of diurnal pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and other insects, the dusk reveals a cast of cryptic characters who join the nocturnal dance. Among these elusive participants are the nocturnal moths, specifically the Hawkmoth (Sphingidae) and the Underwing moth (Catocala).

The Hawkmoth, with its sizeable wingspan and ghostly appearance, hovers around the Bidens alba flowers, siphoning nectar with its long proboscis. In contrast, the Underwing moth, true to its name, reveals hidden, brightly colored hindwings as it flutters around the flowers, evoking an eerie spectacle.

Bidens alba

The plant, keenly aware of its nightly visitors, has adapted to better suit the moths’ preferences. The white flowers become more visible in the dim moonlight, while the fragrance of the Bidens alba grows stronger as the night progresses, enticing the moths to come closer.


The importance of the Bidens alba plant cannot be understated. Not only does it serve as a crucial nectar source for the aforementioned nocturnal pollinators, but it also plays a vital role in supporting other wildlife species. Its seeds provide a valuable food source for various bird species, contributing to the overall ecosystem stability (Heckel et al., 2011). Furthermore, the dense growth habit of Bidens alba offers shelter and nesting sites for smaller animals.

As a member of the Asteraceae family, Bidens alba also holds potential for ecological restoration projects. According to a study by Holmquist et al. (2018), species from this family have been shown to support diverse pollinator assemblages and contribute to habitat restoration. Therefore, incorporating Bidens alba into such projects could enhance local biodiversity, especially in disturbed habitats where the plant tends to thrive.

Beyond its ecological significance, Bidens alba has been utilized for its medicinal properties across various cultures. Traditional uses include treating skin conditions, inflammation, and digestive issues (Ocampo et al., 2015). While further research is needed to validate these claims scientifically, the plant holds promise as a source of potential bioactive compounds.


In conclusion, the Bidens alba plant serves as an integral component of various ecosystems, providing essential resources for nocturnal pollinators and other wildlife. This important plant does not deserve to be sprayed with pernicious pesticides. Its role in habitat restoration and potential medicinal applications highlight the plant’s importance and versatility.

By examining the captivating dance between Bidens alba and its nocturnal pollinators, researchers can continue to uncover the hidden complexities of these relationships and develop a deeper appreciation for the interconnectedness of our natural world.

  • Heckel, C. D., Burkhart, L. M., & Setzer, W. N. (2011). Insecticidal activity of essential oils from native Alabama plants on fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda (JE Smith) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae). Journal of Entomology, 8(2), 190-198.
  • Holmquist, J. R., Schmidt, D. J., & Semple, J. C. (2018). Pollination ecology and breeding system of Symphyotrichum pilosum (Asteraceae: Astereae): Can self-incompatible plants exhibiting geitonogamy be restored successfully? Plant Ecology & Diversity, 11(1), 1-13.
  • Ocampo, R., Herrera, A., & Calvo, M. (2015). Ethnobotanical study of Bidens alba (L.) DC. (Asteraceae) use by a rural community in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Ethnobiology and Conservation, 4(1), 1-16.
Scientific NameBidens alba
Common NameSpanish Needle, Shepherd’s Needle, Butterfly Needle, Romerillo
SpeciesB. alba
HabitatDisturbed areas, meadows, fields, roadsides, pastures, and open woods
Native RangeSouthern United States, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean
Plant TypeHerbaceous perennial
Life CyclePerennial
Bloom TimeYear-round, but most prolific from late summer to early fall
Flower ColorWhite with yellow centers
Flower StructureComposite flower head with both ray (petal-like) and disk (central) florets
PollinatorsBees, butterflies, and other insects
Soil PreferencePrefers well-drained, loamy, sandy, or clay soils; tolerates a wide range of soil types
Light RequirementFull sun to partial shade
Water RequirementModerate; drought-tolerant once established
Propagation MethodsSeeds, stem cuttings
Conservation StatusNot evaluated, considered a weed in some areas
UsesOrnamental, medicinal, nectar source for pollinators, and wildlife habitat

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