Monday, February 29, 2016

Signs of Spring

In beekeeping, one of the things that completely bugs me is how much advice resolves around doing something before something else happens. For example, if you plan to checkerboard, you're supposed to do this 6 weeks before the dandelion blooms, I believe, before the red maple flowers. Well, dang it. How the heck do I know when dandelions are going to bloom? If I had red maple trees in my yard, I suppose I'd check them every day for buds, but I don't, and I don't necessarily think about walking around in search of them. Fortunately, though, red maple isn't the only sign of impending spring.

So today's post is purely for my own record-keeping benefit. One of the things I've resolved to take more notes on is phenological events. Eventually, my hope is to put together some sort of yearly beekeeping calendar of activities that is based on events rather than on calendar months because, goodness knows, the weather can be dramatically different from year to year.

From Merriam-Webster

The first snowdrop sighting this year was at the end of January, and I've seen lots of daffodils coming up. However, within the last week, signs of spring have been popping up all around. One morning, I let the dog out and was greeted by the music of geese honking as they winged their way back north. Wednesday, my first chipmunk and robin spottings occurred.

Yesterday, we had a fantastic day over 50 deg. F. I just couldn't stand being in the house and skipped out on the work I was supposed to be doing in favor of performing some veg garden clean-up/prep. I was thinking of starting my cool weather veggies in a couple of weeks, but the ground in my raised beds was already soft and workable. In fact, some spinach that was planted last fall (but which was mostly eaten by the deer) was already volunteering! I guess it's time to ramp things into high gear around here! (BTW, instead of getting any work done, I ended up planting 4 1/2 out of 5 beds and starting a tray of flowers indoors. Then I played tag and jumped on the trampoline with my kids.)

This spinach is a cheery sight.

BTW, the bees greatly enjoyed the sunshine, too. My 6 colonies were all outside buzzing and interestedly investigating my blue shirt. They were all over the garden soil, too, which seemed curious. Perhaps they were looking for minerals or moisture. Oddly enough, Austeja (the only hive with a window) was also dumping all the sugar I gave her out of the combs and onto the hive floor. I don't know what that's about, but ok. Obviously, they're active, and they can reach the sugar if they need it, so starvation is no longer a concern really.

Dumping all the sugar out

My only disappointment of the day was when I realized that I wasn't seeing any pollen going into the hives. So even though spring is right around the corner, it's not quite here yet. Soon, though. It's going to be here soon.


  1. Julie, I think you'll like this fact sheet: Gardening for Native Bees in Utah and Beyond. While honey bees aren't native, the genus Apis is represented. I think you'll be particularly interested in the calendar that starts on page 13. Logan's last frost is about the same as mine (around Memorial Day) so the calendar is almost perfect for me. Even though it's a long list, it isn't comprehensive. For example, the chart only has one line for Acer. In the Denver metro, Silver Maples have been blooming for over a week but Norway Maples won't bloom until end of April. It's a handy chart but I created a flowering calendar of my own. El Nino and La Nina aside, it's pretty regular:

    1. Yes!!!! That chart is fantastic! Thank you soooo much for sharing that! Even better is your calendar! It's AWESOME! That's exactly the kind of thing I'm trying to create!!! Did you simply use Google Calendar? Or did you use something else? Thanks!

    2. Glad you like it!

    3. Thanks so much! Check out the Nav bar at the top of the page. I have a calendar!!! :-)

    4. Awesome resources and ideas! HB, your calendar will be handy since I'm just up the road. My bees were bringing in tons of pollen yesterday!

    5. That was quick, Julie! I'm looking forward to your observations. BTW I had a colony of bees that dumped their sugar on the floor, too. They ate a lot of it but threw a lot of it away. I think they were a combination of hungry and hygienic.

      Don, elms are in bloom, too but I just can't find any in my neighborhood to document/photograph. Check out National Jewish Health's website. They post pollen counts for us. Years ago they were very detailed, specifying cedar, elm, ash etc but the last couple of years have been vague. For 2016 I hope they give us more info than "trees are high". Denver Pollen


Thank you for your comment! I can't wait to hear what you think!