Monday, February 16, 2015

Spring heralded on valentine's day at Tandy Hills

A honey bee enjoys her non-traditional flowers on Valentine's day
We had perfect weather for a walk on Valentine's day this year, so I decided to tool around Tandy Hills and see how spring is progressing in this part of the metroplex. More butterflies were out. I saw little yellows and possibly dainty sulphurs, in addition to the occasional question mark canvassing about in the sunshine. I know question marks over winter as adults, but I didn't expect the appearance of the little yellows. Apparently they also overwinter as adults in the southern part of their range.

Blooming vetch?
These butterflies weren't nectaring, but they were actively flying on the ridge top. I didn't notice many green legumes for their caterpillars to eat, so I wonder if what I saw were males patrolling for females. In many butterflies and moths, the males emerge first in the season. They use their head start to stake out females.

I also saw a few honey bees out scouting for food. Other than dandelions, hen bit, and the occasional vetch, there wasn't much available. The honey bees seemed to ignore these flowers in favor of the small yellow elbow bush blossoms (Forestiera pubescens). Elbow bush is one of the first shrubs to bloom in Texas. It's flowers tend to appear in February or March, so it's right on time this year. Other common names for this plant include "spring herald" and "stretch berry".

It is fortunate that these honey bees have a few flowers from which to chose. Flowers like dandelions are deficient in multiple amino acids which honey bees are unable to manufacture. The bees would effectively starve and be unable to rear brood if that was the only pollen available.  By collecting pollen from multiple sources, they ensure that their diet satisfies the colony's nutritional requirements.

Busy loading up her saddle bags with food for the hive


  1. Nice. Never seen a question mark near Tandy Hills until last week. It flew in our back door after a big north wind.

  2. Great photos of the honeybees. Thanks for the name of yellow elbow bush, been seeing it for a long time and never looked it up. I think the purple flower is an Astragalus spp. milkvetch not a Vicia spp. vetch from the look of the leaf. Can't say for sure though.


    1. Thanks Gary! I'll take another look at my guides tonight.