Spring is nudging its way into our corner of Washington. The bees seem pleased with this, a bit of going and coming from all the hives. At this time they are returning primarily with pollen. The first big nectar flow: the Big Leaf Maples should be out in about two weeks if they follow the same pattern as other years.
The pattern I watch for is not based on dates, or even directly to the weather – trees will bloom in pouring rain, that got proved last year. The pattern I follow is the one set by wildflowers. The first flowers are not sources of pollen or nectar for the honeybees, but they do offer a good clue as to when the nectar flow will occur.
The first skunk cabbage appeared two weeks ago. These sleek flowers seem to emerge three to four weeks before the Maple bloom here. They are found in low-lying wet areas. Bees don’t do anything with them. I like them because they add color to our area after a long winter and muddy spring.
Lately, other colorful harbingers of spring, and the coming of nectar, have sprung forth.
Oso Berry flowers are now draping their bushes. Sometimes I see honeybees on these, but usually it’s our native bumblebees that take advantage of these blooms.
Forest Violets: one of my favorite plants. They seem to suddenly appear on the paths and roads that I walk with my goats. They too offer no sustenance to the honeybees.
Red Huckleberry : This plant announces spring with the subtle color in its emerging leaves. When those colors appear beneath a canopy of Maples, it is time to get out the supers.
Leaves too can give clues to the coming season:
Stinging nettles and Bleeding Hearts (whose blooms follow the opening of the Big Leaf Maple blooms) also come up; then quickly disappear down my boys’ (and one girl’s) gullets.
That’s OK that we all chow down on the forest’s bounty, there’s a lot of wild food available. Plus, the goats keep my road clear for me, while keeping in practice:
All but 3 are pack goats, or pack goats in training (as I got older I realized that is probably wasn’t good to carry a 55 pound pack for 3 weeks at a time, so pack goats came into my life).
One flower the goats and I do argue over is the Wake Robin (Trilliums) : The bees don’t seem to care for these at all, but there is something about their simple beauty that I find compelling. The goats, however, are simply compelled to eat them. There were three Wake Robins when I lined up the photo; I managed to save two of them.
These, like the other wildflowers tell me that Big Leaf Maple Bloom should be two weeks away, even though the Maple leaves are just emerging now.
The pace of change always amazes me here in the Pacific Northwest. Sometimes I can feel rather silly preparing to super hives on a wet dreary day, but once those Big Leaf Maples bloom, the hives will rapidly fill with nectar and honey – and we all need to stay ahead of the bees, if we want to keep them from swarming.
Postscript: I wrote this blog last Sunday – and never had a chance to post it (one must drive to the library here to get to WiFi -we are the land that technology forgot). Thus we are now potentially one week away from Big Leaf Maple Bloom
That’s the news from Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, Maple Falls, Washington. How is spring progressing in your part of the world? From what I hear on the radio, much of the country has been in spring since February! We’re just hoping it won’t snow again here.
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Do your goats eat the Osoberries? We have a lot on our property but I wasn’t sure if it was safe for them to eat it.
They nibble at them, but don’t like them much. Then my goats once ate a Rhodendron and asked for more! So it may well depend on what other forage they have available (like mine nibble at bracken, but a whole field would be bad) and the goat’s personal digestive system…