Snapshots From a Local Orchard: Blooms & Pollinators!

— Written By

Howard’s Farm, a Chatham County orchard located a few miles west of Pittsboro, has been gorgeous the last week of March with all the peach trees in bloom, followed soon after by the blueberries. I spent a little time last week at the orchard photographing and observing the pollinators. Very soon the apple trees will be in full bloom!

Mature blueberry bushes produce thousands of flower buds every year, and each flower bud produces multiple flowers, all which must be pollinated by bees to set fruit. I observed many pollinators on the blueberry blooms in the last week, including honey bees and native bees such as bumble bees, blueberry bees, carpenter bees, and mining bees (see photos below). All of these bees are important, and blueberries benefit when visited by diverse species of bees. The tiger swallowtail butterflies were also visiting blueberry blooms but are not considered important pollinators for this crop.

All of these blooms mean fruit can’t be far behind, so stop by later this summer to pick up fresh peaches, blueberries, apples, and vegetables from Mema’s Fruit Shack at the orchard located at 7393 US 64 West in Pittsboro.

Click on each photo to enlarge.

Peak peach bloom. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Peak peach bloom. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Blueberry blooms. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Blueberry blooms. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Honey bee robbing nectar from a blueberry bloom. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Honey bee robbing nectar from a blueberry bloom. Larger bees will cut slits in the corolla to access the floral nectaries at the base of the flower and then the honey bees will utilize the holes. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Honey bee on blueberry bloom. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Honey bee on blueberry bloom. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Southeastern blueberry bee foraging on blueberry bloom. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Southeastern blueberry bee foraging on blueberry bloom. Male southeastern blueberry bees have a light-colored face, as seen in this photo. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Carpenter bee robbing nectar from a blueberry bloom. Carpenter bees are the primary nectar thieves on blueberry. Honey bees will often utilize the slits the carpenter bees cut in the corolla to come in as secondary nectar thieves. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Carpenter bee robbing nectar from a blueberry bloom. Carpenter bees are the primary nectar thieves on blueberry. Honey bees will often utilize the slits the carpenter bees cut in the corolla to come in as secondary nectar thieves. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Bumble bee on blueberry. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Bumble bee on blueberry. Native bees tend to be more active in cool, cloudy, and windy weather when honey bees will stay in the hive. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Mining bee on blueberry bloom. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Mining bee on blueberry bloom. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly on blueberry. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly on blueberry. Photo by Debbie Roos.

For more information:

Blueberry Pollinators – North Carolina State University

Which bees are the best blueberry pollinators? – North Carolina State University

Blueberry Pruning and Production Resources – Growing Small Farms, North Carolina Cooperative Extension