Wild Bergamot: A Favorite of Butterflies

In early July in Detroit’s Eliza Howell Park, Wild Bergamot begins to bloom. For nature watchers, it is an important and exciting time, a signal that the summer buterfly season is here.

As is evident from this recently taken photo, Wild Bergamot attracts a variety of other insects in addition to butterflies. My focus here, though, is on some of the butterfly species that I hope to see again this year.

Red-spotted Purple

The red spots of the Red-spotted Purple can be seen when the wings are closed.

Bergamot grows in clumps, about 3 – 4 feet tall. It is widespread in the wildflower meadow of the park, spreading by both rhizomes and seed, and blooming during most of July and August.

Question Mark

The small mark that gives the Question Mark its name is on the under side of the wing, not visible here.

Many gardeners grow a type of Bergamot, especially the red variety. It is often called Bee Balm and it attracts hummingbirds in addition to insects.

Great Spangled Frittilary

This week I saw the first Great Spangled Frittilary of the year in Eliza Howell — and it was visiting Bergamot. This photo is from last year.

Some of my insect-watching time is spent just standing next to a clump of Bergamot, noting the activity. A lovely insect might just come by, ignoring me as it seeks nectar.

Mourning Cloak

Mourning Cloak is not very common in the summer, but when they do fly in the park in July, Wild Bergamot is one place they stop.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Tiger Swallowtail is more common in Eliza Howell. It makes the rounds of various flowers, one of which is Bergamot.

Silver-spotted Skipper

Photos can sometimes be misleading in terms of a the size of the subject. Comparing the insect to the size of rhe flower, one can see that a Silver-spotted Skipper is considerably smaller than a Tiger Swallowtail.

Wild Bergamot also attracts, at times, those fascinating daytime moths known as hummingbird moths. They hover at flowers, similar to the way hummingbirds behave.

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth
Strawberry Clearwing Moth

As one can see from this series of photos, taken the last two summers, Wild Bergamot in bloom means it’s time to start hanging out in the wildflowers!

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