Wild Bergamot in Bloom: Attracting Butterflies and Bumblebees

One of my favorite Eliza Howell Park wildflowers is now in bloom — Wild Bergamot. It is very easy to find patches of these three-feet tall plants sporting multitudinous lavender blossoms.

Wild Bergamot, a plant of the mint family that is sometimes called Bee Balm, is a favorite of mine in large part because it is a magnet for fascinating insects, especially pollinators. I frequently stop at one of these patches, knowing that there is an excellent chance of seeing butterflies and an assurance of seeing other insects.

Butterflies that I have been seeing the last four days, camera in hand, include:

Great Spangled Frittilary

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Silver-spotted Skipper

Black Swallowtail

Wild Bergamot blooms for about a month, attracting an increasing variety of insects as the month progresses. At present, the most numerous visitors are bumblebees, present in great number.

Bumblebees crawl over the flowers, gathering pollen.

There are many different kinds of bumblebees (19 have been recorded in Michigan) and I am not able to identify them by individual species.

Bumblebees are among the largest of bees and, like honeybees, live together as a social unit. But unlike honeybees, which were introduced from Europe shortly after Europeans came to North America, bumblebees are native here.They appear to be the primary pollinator of many wildflowers in Eliza Howell Park.

Though bumblebees may look scary, they are so focused on pollen that they can be approached very closely without danger as they work the flowers.

The flowering of Wild Bergamot signals that the wildflower and butterfly season is definitely underway. The next few weeks is the time to experience the wealth of wildflowers and to admire all the insects they attract.

The Detroit Audubon Wildflower and Butterfly field trip to Eliza Howell Park is scheduled for July 31 this year.

Joe Pye Weed, Purple Coneflower, Ironweed, and a variety of other flowers will be getting attention very soon, but Wild Bergamot deserves the focus these early days of July.

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