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Remember 1978!

For some time, the scale hive has been an important tool in the armamentarium of the beekeeper. On a day-to-day basis during the active season, scale-hive observations can inform the beekeeper of the beginning of a nectar flow, allowing needed supers to be readied.

Probably more importantly, such observations can also warn the beekeeper that a dearth is imminent or already occurring and that feeding is required.

At the end of the season, a review of scale-hive data also provides a good summary of the progress of colonies during the year. The data can also be used to compare productivity trends between seasons and geographic locations.

Scale-hive records also have the potential to provide insight into long-term trends of relevance to beekeeping. For example, by correlating such records with meteorological data, it should be possible to explore the effects of such variables as rainfall, air temperature, and soil temperature on honey yields from specific nectar-producing plants.

In addition, scale-hive data could help in studies of regional and local climate trends and the effects of environmental changes and changes in beekeeping practices on productivity.

To illustrate the utility of scale-hive records for exploring seasonal trends in beekeeping, data for a hive at Glengarra Wood, Co. Tipperary, for the year 1978 are presented in the accompanying graph.

Like farmers, beekeepers are extremely aware of meteorological patterns and are generally good at remembering the weather conditions in a particular year. What was 1978 like? Most of June was cool, cloudy, and showery; July began dull, had a warm spell in the middle, and ended in rain; August opened cool and showery, became humid and cloudy, but ended in a spectacular period of sunshine and warmth that lasted through the first week of September.

These weather trends are reflected in the graph, which gives the cumulative weight gain for each day of the period between the beginning of June and the end of September. When interpreting the graph, it should be noted that horizontal trends equate with little or no weight gain whereas steeply sloping trends equate with high nectar flows.

The first significant detail is the so-called June gap, during which the colony ate into some of its reserves and actually declined in weight. In the second week, there was a minor flow, probably from the clover. However, the most significant feature is the major weight gain experienced by the hive during the last week of August and the first week of September.

This was undoubtedly due to a nectar flow from the ling heather in the nearby Galtee Mountains. During this period, the hive gained around 80 lbs., with an increase of 13 lbs on August 25th, which is no mean feat given that the heather is located at least 2 miles from the apiary.

This is just a fairly simple illustration of the information that can be extracted from the analysis of scale-hive records from just one year. However, the availability of data from many different years and geographical locations should increase the potential of such records for apicultural research purposes.

Consequently, I am trying to gather together scale-hive records from around the country with the ultimate aim of possibly establishing a national scale-hive database.

I would like to thank members who have already forwarded me their record. Anybody else who wishes to contribute records or wants to find out more about this project can contact me at 041-6861884 or eemac@eircom.net.

Eoghan Mac Giolla Coda