Hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) are regulated by various bone marrow stromal cell types. Here we identified rare activated bone marrow monocytes and macrophages with high expression of α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) and the cyclooxygenase COX-2 that were adjacent to primitive HSPCs. These myeloid cells resisted radiation-induced cell death and further upregulated COX-2 expression under stress conditions. COX-2-derived prostaglandin E 2 (PGE 2) prevented HSPC exhaustion by limiting the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) via inhibition of the kinase Akt and higher stromal-cell expression of the chemokine CXCL12, which is essential for stem-cell quiescence. Our study identifies a previously unknown subset of α-SMA + activated monocytes and macrophages that maintain HSPCs and protect them from exhaustion during alarm situations.