Last year, about this time of year, I was busy planting various kinds of hops – in pots – in the kitchen. Mid-spring, I transplanted all of it out into various areas of the garden. The Fuggle, which originally showed signs of being sickly or weak, took off like a rocket. The Chinook was a 1/3 the length of the Fuggle and the Cascade never really made it beyond the four-feet-tall-mark.

At the end of the season, I harvested the fragrant hops cones, dried them, and now they await their eventual fate of being put into a batch of beer.

Presently, the snow, just these past few days, has completely melted away from where the hops rhizomes slumbered for the winter. I am hoping all went well for the little guys (yes, I am anthropomorphizing the hops). This evening, before the sun set, I looked out of my office’s window (my office at home, that is) and briefly envisioned it was mid-August, and there were lush hops cones forming on long vines on the east-side fence. Then I snapped to, and looked out onto the soggy, half-frozen, mud covered surroundings. Spring had better not get lost on its way here.

snowshoe apiaries range

I finished ordering the remaining gear for the hives. Frames, foundations, a couple new beesuits, and a laundry-list of other things. I will need to make my own hive-stands; BetterBee, Inc. is currently out of their 8-frame stands. I am sure I could probably find them some other place, but they should not be too difficult to make.

I was inspired by a recent article in the Minnesota Hobby Beekeepers Association about “The Honey Bees Forage Area in the Landscape,” by Dan Palmer. The article basically explains the normal range of the honey bee, how multi-tiered forage crops can affect range of the bees. For example, a mono-floral areas, like crop land will have plants of basically the same height. It can be simplified into thinking of it as being a two dimensional surface. In a more diverse area, the two dimensional analogy gives way to three dimensions. This will in turn increase the available forage area for the bees.

The article had a little graphic; a basic line drawing of a township division. The graphic had two circles; one representing a one mile radius and the other representing a two mile radius. As it turns out, bees will have a maximum range of two miles in any direction from their home. An affective range of one mile will be suffice if there are enough foraging plants (think three dimensions here).

Back to being inspired. I was inspired by the little graphic. I thought that I could expand upon the general idea through the use of some technology. Namely, Geographic Information Systems, or just GIS. Using freely available tools, QGIS, MapServer and freely available data from Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, I came up with my attempt at showing the range of my bees. It is a work in progress, and I might Tweet links to future attempts.