Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Buds, Bees, Butterflies and Blueberries

It is easy to get spring fever when the garden starts to show the first signs of color, and I am eager to shake off winter. Tender buds are bursting open on each new day, fresh foliage is pushing its way up from the sweet earth, days grow longer and the sun shines brighter. But spring is not a season we enter into lightly in Georgia. It is a roller coaster ride with extreme peaks, gentle dips and sharp turns. I have a real urge to plant, but I know that it is best to tip toe through March because the threat of frost still looms. And yet the warm, sunny 80 degree days brings out the pollinators to visit the blooms and my heart is full.

Redbud tree with Swallowtail butterfly

The Eastern Redbuds stand tall at the edge of the stark woods, which is still waiting for foliage to leaf out and provide a opulent canopy. These small yet sturdy trees are a powerhouse of pink, covered with vivid blooms from top to bottom, even exploding out of the trunk.

Bumblebee on redbud blooms

This early blooming native tree is a package of happiness in our garden, attracting a variety of bees and butterflies to its dainty flowers.


Our 15 blueberry shrubs (yes, 15 and I still want more!) begin their bloom period this month. Their pastel buds bring renewed energy to the kitchen garden, catching the evening light glowing gorgeously as the sun gently sets each evening.

rabbiteye blueberry buds

I can hear the loud buzzing of the bees that cover the blueberry blooms, before I even reach the kitchen garden. These bees are essential to successful berry production because blueberry pollen is sticky and heavy and can't move on its own. Rabbiteye blueberries are native to Georgia and we now lead the nation in production, beating out Michigan, traditionally regarded as the blueberry capital of the country.

Southeastern blueberry bee
The Southeastern blueberry bees are a native pollinator that resemble bumblebees, but can be distinguished by their yellow face. Using buzz pollination, they are busy pollinators specializing in blueberries, but will also visit other native, early spring blooms such as Redbuds and Carolina Jessamine.

Butterflies are also a fan of the blueberry's sweet nectar. I adore how they hang upside down and cling to the drooping blooms, inserting their proboscis and drinking effortlessly.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on blueberry blooms

Based on the pollinators who are visiting the blueberries, I think I'm safe in saying that we will have another fruitful harvest this year.


Another fruit tree that has burst into its spring glory is the peach tree. Blooms range from pale pink to dark blush. These too are a pollinator favorite even though they don't requiring pollination services to produce fruit (self-pollinating). However, nectar-collecting insects will help move pollen subsequently assisting in fertilization.


This Eastern Tiger swallowtail continually returned to visit the peach blossoms, diving freely into the flowers. Enjoying the sun-kissed day.


Other recurrent visitors are beetles, native bees and honeybees. Notice the pollen covering the thorax and abdomen of this beetle as it bustles about the stamen and pistal. Fruit production is underway.


While seedlings are growing indoors, planting will wait until April and my fingers will feel the richness of the soil soon enough. So, as we gingerly march through this blissful season, I am delighting in each sweet sign of spring. The buds, the bees, the butterflies and of course the blueberries!

21 comments:

  1. Your words and photos are wonderful! So descriptive that I feel like I am right there with you enjoying your garden!

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    1. Your welcome to come over anytime Penny and enjoy in person!

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  2. Hurray for blueberries! It would be nice to get a few berries from the "twigs" I planted last fall, but I'll be just as happy if the plants get some good growth on them this year & do well in their specially prepared bed.

    We have a redbud as well & I adore that burst of colour in the early spring with no leaves to detract from the blooms...it won't be too long now until we can enjoy it!

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    1. I agree Margaret, I enjoy flowers that bloom before the foliage leafs out. It really showcases those beautiful blooms. Our blueberries love our acidic soil here and grow vigorously. I hope yours get a good start this year. I find them to be pretty fast growers.

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  3. If I could grow blueberries I would want at least 15 shrubs. Sadly they don't like our alkaline soil. I tried growing them in containers but that was also a flop, for some reason. Love all the bees and butterflies you are seeing now! Here I have yet to see the first bee.

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    1. You got quiet the winter storm the other day Jason. I think the pollinators must have known it wasn't time yet to emerge. I think it is tough to grow blueberries in containers, they really are happier planted directly in the ground.

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  4. You have so many beautiful Blueberry species. I think the blooms are underappreciated, but of course most of us love the berries! I can't believe you have so many butterflies already!

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    1. Beth, yesterday there were at least 7 swallowtail butterflies fluttering around the garden. Thank goodness the leaves are starting to leaf out so they can start laying eggs. Spring is in full swing here.

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    1. I just love walking around the garden with all the wildlife out and about. I can't remember seeing so many swallowtails this early in spring before.

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  7. 15 blueberry bushes? I am experiencing blueberry envy right now. I always wondered about the little bees that resemble miniature carpenter bees - it's nice to have a name!

    I just started seeing swallowtails this week. Your pictures are lovely!

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    1. The last few days I have just been sitting by the blueberries watching all the pollinators that cover the blooms. It is a very busy place with lots of happy bees and butterflies.

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  8. Oh I just love it when all the Redbuds start blooming! All of the bees and butterflies are so pretty. It's still too cold for them up in my neck of the woods. How great to have a nice harvest of blueberries. I planted a few little blueberry plants last year, but it will take a bit for them to grow up.

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    1. Fortunately they are fast growers so you won't have to wait too long before they start producing fruit. Hopefully they will do well in your soil.

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  9. I had no idea blueberries had their own specialized pollinator. How very cool! :o) I had blueberries but one was demolished by an enthusiastic wheelbarrow wielding teen, 2 were in a weird spot and were dug up and given to a friend, and the last one died. But I never got any berries, anyway. The birds ate them ALL!!

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    1. One of the reason I have so many shrubs. I can still get a hearty harvest while the wildlife get a few too. They also have gorgeous fall color...I think they make a great landscape shrub.

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  10. I love your photos with the bees and butterflies. I love blueberries but have had limited success. I have four shrubs, three different varieties, and only two look like they will produce berries this year. Maybe I need to plant rabbiteyes!

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    1. Rabbiteye varieties are more drought resistant, than say, Highbush and will grow in soil with minimal amount of organic matter. They do very well in our clay. I highly recommend you try them!

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  11. Oh Karin you have all my favorites in this post....it has been quite the roller coaster here so far, and once it stabilizes a bit we will see more buds and butterflies.

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  12. I was here and commented when you first posted this article - the first day. For some reason, my comments are not sticking. Anyway, I like how you captured the insects on buds. You are fortunate to have the weather for them to bud out at his time of year. Insects love the south. Here, it is snow this week. Flowers are shivering, LOL.

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"Don't wait for someone to bring you flowers. Plant your own garden and decorate your soul"

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