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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
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    Greater Hartford area, CT
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    Default Does anyone use phenology to time hive management events?

    I don't know if I'm posting in the right forum, so if I'm not, please, accept my apologies.

    I'm very interested in phenology, which is the study of natural phenomena in relationship to the weather and climate as well as other phenomena. Gardener's, for instance, might use phenology. For example, the appearance of forsythia blooms indicates that it's time to plant peas.

    In the various books I've been reading, there are general guidelines of when to close a hive for the winter, but I find that weather varies from one locale to the next, and even from one year to the next. So I've been thinking that perhaps it would make more sense to time this event to what is happening in nature.

    Does anyone do this? For instance, do you say, "Well, xyz plant has stopped blooming" or "all the leaves are gone from abc tree" or "the chipmunks are out" or something like that to decide when certain hive management events should occur?

    Just curious. Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Rader, Greene County, Tennessee, USA
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    6,341

    Default Re: Does anyone use phenology to time hive management events?

    You may be interested in this current thread:

    http://www.beesource.com/forums/show...or-a-fool-quot

    The thread topic itself is not what you are asking about, but there are several references to keying beekeeping manipulations to the timing of red maple blossom and apple blossom.
    Graham
    --- Practical reality trumps philosophy!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
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    Greater Hartford area, CT
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    305

    Default Re: Does anyone use phenology to time hive management events?

    Thanks, Radar Sidetrack -- I'll check it out.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Madison, WI, USA
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    175

    Default Re: Does anyone use phenology to time hive management events?

    Being aware of weather patterns and forecasts, what is blooming, what is done blooming, what color pollen the bees are bringing in, how full the hive is with brood, bees and honey, etc. are all better indicators of what actions to take as a beekeeper than a date on a calender. For me, I am managing a small number of hives in a variety of locations, and I have a very bad memory, so I take notes after each visit to each location and review these notes when I get back home to decide on what action I will take next and when for each location. During the winter, I summarize these notes and compare to previous years notes. I rarely see patterns, but I do eventually see similarities in situations and what actions were successful and which were a waste of time or worse. I think you are on the right track with looking to natural phenomena for timing, however, I would concentrate on those phenomena that are directly related to the bees (forage, hive space, hive health, etc.) as much as possible.
    life is finite while knowledge is infinite. - Zhuang Zi

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
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    Default Re: Does anyone use phenology to time hive management events?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom B View Post
    Being aware of weather patterns and forecasts, what is blooming, what is done blooming, what color pollen the bees are bringing in, how full the hive is with brood, bees and honey, etc. are all better indicators of what actions to take as a beekeeper than a date on a calender. For me, I am managing a small number of hives in a variety of locations, and I have a very bad memory, so I take notes after each visit to each location and review these notes when I get back home to decide on what action I will take next and when for each location. During the winter, I summarize these notes and compare to previous years notes. I rarely see patterns, but I do eventually see similarities in situations and what actions were successful and which were a waste of time or worse. I think you are on the right track with looking to natural phenomena for timing, however, I would concentrate on those phenomena that are directly related to the bees (forage, hive space, hive health, etc.) as much as possible.
    Thanks for your input, Tom. I think we're definitely in agreement that certain phenomena in the hive should always be heeded, but I think that this makes us more reactive than proactive because we have to wait until we see certain things happening before we can do anything. And that's fine. Most of the time, you just have to wait for things to take their natural course.

    At the same time, I feel the natural world can probably tell us a lot about what to anticipate as well (which is also what you said). This may help us get ahead of the ball in terms of managing swarms, knowing when to open, close, split, etc. For example, a number of years ago one May, I was digging in my garden, and found a nest of some kind of ground bee that was hibernating (or whatever they do) during the winter. At that time my flowering cherry was still in bud. A week later or so, the tree bloomed and at the same time, the bees emerged from the ground. This same pairing of events happened like clockwork every year even though the timing would change from year to year (sometimes late April/early May, mid-May, sometimes late May), but they always occurred together, so that I knew flowering cherry = appearance of ground bees. I wasn't keeping ground bees, so I never did anything with that info. But if I were, I think that would be a good thing to know. When I see cherry buds, then I should get ready to do XYZ activity.

    As a result of that experience, I'm on the same page with you that natural signs are more reliable than dates on a calendar, but I'm really curious to hear if anyone has made any similar observations. For instance, what triggers you to say, "Ok, I need to do some fall feeding now (if necessary)" or "It's time to close up"?

    Although I've been keeping offhand notes about forage this year (my first year), I was thinking that next year, I would try to keep more detailed records about temperatures, what I see blooming, animals that are returning/awakening, etc. and correlate those events to what is happening in the hive. I'll try to use this winter to create a form for capturing data.

    Thanks again for your feedback!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Cookeville, TN, USA
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    4,113

    Default Re: Does anyone use phenology to time hive management events?

    We use phenology of course, but the effect of various blooms on bee activity relies greatly on what the weather is like during the flow. For example maple blooms in Feb/march in my area - maple produces tons of both nectar and pollen and can result in a strong early brood build up. But usually it is too cold and rainy during most of that period for the bees to go out and get it.

    So keying some manipulation - like reversing hive bodies fe - to just some particular bloom without taking other factors into account is over simplification.
    Last edited by David LaFerney; 10-04-2013 at 01:31 PM.
    Since '09-25H-T-Z6b

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Mtn. View, Arkansas, USA
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    1,290

    Default Re: Does anyone use phenology to time hive management events?

    In my location the first swarms begin 2 weeks after the Redbud Trees are in full bloom. The five year average date for the Redbud to begin blooming is the 23rd of March. The trees can bloom 2 weeks before or after that date, but the swarms start 2 weeks from the time the trees are in full bloom.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Calgary, Alberta, CA
    Posts
    78

    Default Re: Does anyone use phenology to time hive management events?

    Esoteric terminology for standard practice aside, I just use beekeeping.

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