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Prairie Notes are monthly photo/journal observations from Tandy Hills Natural Area by Founder/Director, Don Young. They include field reports, flora and fauna sightings, and more, mixed with a scoop of dry humor and a bit of philosophy. They are available free to all who get on the FOTHNA email list.

A Sleepin' Bee Done Told Me

Prairie Notes #165
September 1, 2020


01) A Sleepin' Bee Done Told Me
02) Field Report - August
03) NPAT Honor for Tandy HIlls
04) New Species - August
05) Project Bluebird in the News
06) The Pleasures of Moth-Watching
07) PrairieSky / StarParty News
08) North Texas Giving Day - 9_17_20
09) Prairie Proverb - Truman Capote

01) A Sleepin' Bee Done Told Me

 

There is a special place at Tandy Hills that delivers "peak experiences" nearly every time I stop by. In the fall, the place is carpeted with Eryngo (Eryngium leavenworthii) and a good stand of False Gaura (Oenothera glaucifolia) and various grasses. It's also a popular place for insects.

 

I like to visit near sunset when the east-facing slope is fully shaded from the Sun. The secret to my altered state of consciousness seems to be in standing stock still in the middle of the palce and letting my senses simply take it all in. The smell of cedar and sage, insects buzzing about in the magical light of near-twilight, the darkening sky. If I'm lucky, there is a light breeze but often, dead stillness. I just wait quietly for the magic to happen. 

 

Exactly one year ago in August 2019 when standing there in attentive silence, dozens of mature Preying Mantis (Stagmomantis carolina) slowly came into view. In their search for evening prey, they moved in Tai Chi slow-motion around the spiky Eryngo, their movements precise but barely preceptible. It was like watching the sky for the stars to appear. First one flickered into view then another and another. Their zen-like movements and rotating eyes in the stillness of the evening made for a memorable event. 

 

Fast forward to August 27, 2020. Same place, same time of day. I'm searching for the Preying Mantis, thinking they should be here like 2019. Alas, none appeared. The wind was calm, the temp stifling hot, the light fading fast, my dog signaling that we should head home. I was so busy looking for Mantis I didn't notice, at first, the large number of American Bumble Bees (Bombus pensylvanicus), critical pollinators of wild flowering plants, floating about the Eryngo like plump, winged fairies. With little else blooming, they were gathering pollen and nectar from the blue-purple flowers.

 

With darkness coming on fast, I moved in close for a few photos. To my great surprise, I saw the bees begin to slow down. One after another, they landed carefully on the Eryngo, wrapped their legs around the flower heads and stop moving as if their batteries went dead. Busy bees they were not. These bees were dead asleep. My research revealed that, male bumble bees often sleep inside flowers when the nest is not near and it's cold outside. But the temp was near 100 when I observed them, so I've not yet figured out this behavior but I'm certain they know what's best. Or do they? 

 

This is where my story gets a bit creepy. After taking a last look at all the sleeping bees I did finally see a Preying Mantis, eerily creeping towards one of the sleeping bees. Nearby, I also observed a handsome pair of Bee Assasin Bugs (Apiomerus spissipes) doing the same. Later, I learned that both species feed on Bumble Bees, eating them alive. So, while the bees dozed, their predators were silently stalking them in some kind of weird but deadly symbiosis. 

 

On a somewhat related and more uplifting note, there is an old island folktale that says if you hold a bee in your hand while it is sleeping you will find true love, if the bee does not awaken and sting you. Finding true love and holding bees are both risky propositions. Be careful out there.

 

 

DY

 

This little spot on the side of a hill is carpeted in Eryngo every fall. Insects like it as much as I do.

 

A sleepin' bee tucked in for the night. Trust me. American Bumble Bee (Bombus pensylvanicus)

 

This pair of Bumble Bees were about to settle in for the night when something wicked their way came.

 

The Mantis moved in Tai Chi slow-motion towards the sleepy bees.

 

Preying Mantis (Stagmomantis carolina) moving in for a kill.

 


Bee Assasin Bugs (Apiomerus spissipes) use their probocis to kill and eat bees.

 

I discovered a dead Bumble Bee on a later visit.

 

02) Field Report - August

 

August was flaming hot and dry except for that surprise thunderstorm on August 29th. Exactly four species of wildflowers were blooming as of August 30th and they were struggling: The aforementioned, Eryngo plus, Snow-on-the-Prairie, False Gaura and Narrowleaf Gumweed, provided a bit of late summer color in the changing light of August. I did see a single, drooping Texas Bluebell hanging on and a handful of tiny Broomweed flowers. Perhaps the most significant event in August, was the mass concentration of Mississippi Kites that had a feeding frenzy high above Tandy Hills for several days. Numbering several dozen, their high-flying presence was breathtaking. Watch a video of the swarm HERE: https://www.tandyhills.org/videos/swarm-mississippi-kites-above-tandy-hills

 

Hot and dry is sometimes beautiful.

 


Hot town, summer in the city. Doesn't seem to be a shadow in the city.

 


A Texas Spiny Lizard scanning for supper at Tandy Hills.

 

Looks like summer on the prairie.

 


Catch & NOT release: In mid-August, dozens of Mississippi Kites foraged for insects, en masse, above Tandy Hills.

 


It was a hot and dry August at Tandy Hills.

 


Eastern Leaf-footed Bug

 


The last Texas Bluebell of the season bowing out.

 


Little Bluestem with Snow On the Prairie.

 


August light makes a prairie look nice.

 

03) NPAT Honor for Tandy Hills

 

We are exceedingly proud that a photo by Don Young is included in the Native Prairies Association of Texas, 2021 calendar. Not only that, but two other photos taken at Tandy Hills are included in this statewide calendar. Thanks to Kirsti Harms for including us.

 

Consider becoming a member of NPAT and get your very own calendar HERE: https://texasprairie.org/join/

 

 


Wild Hyacinth (Camassia scilloides) and Common Checkered Skippers (Burnsius communis), by Don Young, 2019

 

04) New Species - August

 

Unsurprisingly, only two new species were recorded in the blazing month of August bringing the current total to 1394 species. Check out the Tandy HIlls iNat project page HERE: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/tandy-hills-natural-area-stratford-...

 

Brown Panopoda Moth (Panopoda carneicosta), photo by Don Young

 

Gall Midge (Polystepha pilulae), photo by sharafty

 

05) Project Bluebird in the News

 

Friends of Tandy Hills longtime supporter and board member, Jim Marshall, was featured in a Star-Telegram report in August on his, Project Bluebird. The report by, environmental reporter, Haley Samsel, details the amazing efforts since 2007 by Jim and his many volunteers, to increase the Eastern Bluebird population in Fort Worth. It's a heart-warming success story. Check it out HERE:

 

https://www.star-telegram.com/news/local/fort-worth/article244688752.html

 

 

06) The Pleasures of Moth-Watching

 

Somewhere, Sam Kieschnick is smiling. The New York Times published a wonderful introduction to mothing in August. Check it out HERE: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/12/realestate/moth-watching-night-garden...

 

 

07) PrairieSky / StarParty News - September

 

For home-based sky watching in September, FW Astronomical Society rep, Pam Kloepfer, offers the following:

 

"September will mark the beginning of fall later in the month! We will still be able to see the summer constellations as they make their way west across the sky. Scorpius with its giant tail and the Teapot asterism are still plainly visible in the south as they head west. Overhead, we can see the bright star Vega in Lyra the Lyre. Remember where Vega is for finding the Summer Triangle later! Following Vega, is the constellation Cygnus the Swan. If you look carefully, you may see a cross in the sky. This is called the Northern Cross and is part of the larger Cygnus. Deneb is the brightest star and marks the tail of the swan - or the top of the cross. The bottom of the cross is the double star Albireo which we would only be able to see through a telescope. We also have a good view of the Summer Triangle overhead. Vega and Deneb mark the base of the triangle and Altair in Aquila the Eagle marks the apex of what forms an isosceles triangle - two sides are of equal length! This is the only asterism that is formed using three stars from three different constellations. Jupiter and Saturn continue to shine in the south and bright Venus can be seen early in the morning for you early risers. The Moon will be full early in the month, on September 2."

 

 

08) North Texas Giving Day - 9_17_20

 

Your financial gifts are requested on September 17th, to help further current and long-term goals of Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area (FOTHNA). Click this link to go directly to our donation page.

 

Our shared botanical treasure known as Tandy Hills has becomes ever more valuable each year. People from all over north Texas keep discovering our urban refuge as an escape from the madness of the world, to study nature up close or simply recreate with family. The work done by Friends of Tandy Hills volunteers is primarily restoration efforts to control invasive species and maintain trails. Our interpretation of this ever so rare ecosystem via education initiatives help keep Tandy Hills vital, such as: 

 

- Kids on the Prairie
- PrairieSky / StarParty
- Manly Men Wild Women Hike
- iNaturalist
- Trout Lily Walk
- Prairie Notes 

 

We stretch every dollar for the betterment of Tandy Hills and the citizens of north Texas. Your past gifts have made a difference. Thanks a mil ! ! ! 

 

 

09) Prairie Proverb - Truman Capote

 

"When a bee lies sleepin' in the palm of your hand

You're bewitched and deep in love's long look’d-after land

Where you'll see a sun up sky with the mornin' moon

And where the days go laughin' by, as love comes callin' on you

Sleep on bee, don't 'waken I can't believe what just passed

He's mine for the takin’ I am happy at last

Maybe I dream but he seems sweet golden as a crown

A sleepin' bee done told me that I will walk with my feet off the ground

When my one true love I have found."

 

- Truman Capote, lyrics from the hit song, A Sleepin' Bee, introduced in the 1954 musical, House of Flowers, which is based on Capote’s award-winning story of the same name. Music by Harold Arlen. Listen to a swinging jazz version by Johnny Hartmann, HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YvNv5xXvSfI

 


Howard Arlen & Truman Capote

 

Prairie Notes© is the official newsletter of Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. All content by Don Young except where otherwise noted

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