Monthly Archives: May 2016

Minor technical problem with the scale

So for folks looking at the scale data recently, you will notice the scale hive has been offline for a few days. It’s an artifact of using an off the shelf scale that requires it be started with no weight on to set a new zero point after it’s been turned off. We had a power outage that turned off the scale, and I was out of town for a few days, so didn’t get it reset until this weekend. I put a short term solution for this kind of problem in place over the weekend, the scale now has a small ups to provide power thru short term power outages.

This is my biggest gripe with using an off the shelf electronic scale, all of the ones I’ve looked at suffer from this issue. When first powered up, they want to set a zero point, so you need to offload the hive when powering up the scale which is a royal PITA at times. Once it’s up and running, reading zero, then you put the hive back down on the scale. The ups is a band-aid type solution, at least it means the scale wont reset over a short term power outage, but a proper solution would be a scale that can be powered up with the load already in place. I haven’t found this one yet, but, still searching.

Salmonberry and Thimbleberry – which is which

So I got a phone call yesterday, somebody questioning my post regarding the start of the honey flow, and crediting the salmonberry, with a comment ‘here on Quadra the samlon berries have been done for a while now, and are already fruiting’. Got me to thinking, and researching, I will admit we’ve had some confusion over time about a couple of the flower identifications, and now I understand the confusion. The photo is linked from wikipedia, and here is the description they offer.
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Rubus parviflorus, commonly called thimbleberry,[2] salmonberry,[2] and snow bramble,[3] is a species of Rubus, native to North America.[4]
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This is the flower we see when the flow starts to ramp up here at our location, and, it seems there is confusion as to what it is, is it a thimbleberry, or a salmon berry ? Turns out, it just depends what reference you are using, the linked references call it by different names in different areas. If you follow the reference links on wikipedia, there are multiple taxonomy references, one calls it a Thimbleberry and another calls it a Salmonberry.

So then we look at the other flowers that appear in the same group of bushes beside the pond here. So next we type ‘salmonberry’ into the search, and see what comes up.

And here is the description
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Rubus spectabilis
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
“Salmonberry” redirects here. It is not to be confused with Rubus parviflorus.

Rubus spectabilis (salmonberry) is a species of brambles in the rose family, native to the west coast of North America from west central Alaska to California, inland as far as Idaho.[2][3][4]
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So, we have multiple bushes intermixed beside the pond which is right outside my back door. It has BOTH of these flowers intermixed in the pond. The pink one has been blooming for some time, and the white one started just a few days ago. The white one is the one that marks the beginning of our honey flow, and I’ve been referring to it as the Salmonberry, because the references I originally looked up to identify it, called it a Salmonberry. Turns out, different references call it different things, and the common name locally for this flower is indeed the Thimbleberry, and the pink one is what locals call the Salmonberry.

I think this will clear up any confusion on the subject, and explains why we have conflicts on some of the flower names. I’ll clean up the bloom dates pages to reference the names used more commonly in our area.

Another detail I think is important to mention and understand. When we say the flow is on, we base that on data coming from the scale hive, then look around the yard to see what is blooming at the time. The assumption is, whatever plants are producing the flow, even if they aren’t the same ones we see blooming, they are something that blooms at the same time. Last year, the majority of our honey crop came in while the Thimbleberry bloom was happening, and we see the same trend starting again this year. Scale hive lost weight on the cool / rainy days, but, on the warm days we are seeing weight increases in the 5lb per day range.

Spring honey flow

Yesterday we were moving some hives to the raspberry farm for the pending raspberry bloom. On the way we saw the first thimbleberry blooms along the road near our home. If one looks at the year over year data from the hive on the scale, the similarities between this year and last year are striking. We had a nice run of 20lb during the early part of April with warm weather and the Maples in bloom, followed by 10 days of cool and damp weather during which the bees consumed a big chunk of those stores brought in during that period. Today is shaping up to be a nice sunny day, and the salmon berries are open, I saw grey pollen at the entrances yesterday. The forecast is mostly sunny and warm for the next two weeks. The ducks are now all lined up.

This is it folks, the spring honey flow is upon us. Hive populations are a reasonable size, well positioned to start storing nectar, berries are opening, and warm weather in the forecast, it’s looking just like last year at this time. If you look at the year over year graphs from the hive scale, when the weather turned sunny in May, the hives started to store nectar in a hurry, and the runup over the month of May was on the order of 65lb.

For those of us in the valley that dont move the hives into higher ground for the fireweed bloom, the time to make honey is now, and the crop will come in over the next 4 to 5 weeks of valley blooms. For those that focus on producing honey from the higher level fireweed blooms, the time to build populations in spring splits is now.

But with the good, comes the difficult as well. Two weeks of warm weather with berries in bloom means we are now headed into the prime swarm season, and now is also the time to be on the top of your game trying to discourage swarming. We will be going thru all the hives opening up space in brood nests this week, and getting another super onto most of them. It is also the time of year to get more comb drawn out, and we are still in the mode of trying to expand the inventory of drawn comb, so all of the supers will go on with 8 drawn frames, and 2 fresh new frames interspersed between them. This is a strategy that works well for us to get more drawn comb during the heavy nectar flow, the bees have enough space to store what is coming in, and draw some comb during the process. Without the drawn frames in each box, the nectar comes in much faster than they can draw the comb to store it, and the hives will start into swarm preparations as they start storing nectar into the brood nest.

It’s going to be a busy month, but, we keep bees to take advantage of the pending flow. Our job now is to make sure they dont run out of space to raise brood and store nectar, we leave the rest to the bees themselves.