January 2005

George Imirie’s PINK PAGES

Education ????? of BeeKeepers!


Although I have written these PINK PAGES for over 20 years as a written instrument to aid MY MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MARYLAND beeHAVERS to become competent beeKEEPERS, for years, these PINK PAGES have appeared monthly on various websites over the U.S. suggesting 20,000 “hits” per month. Of course, I am gratified by all those trusting my FREE knowledge; and am ELATED that my Montgomery County Beekeeper Association has TEN Certified Master Beekeepers, whereas no other bee association in the entire U. S. has more than TWO! It humbles me, and I am so PROUD of ALL Master Beekeepers! THIS WAS THE EXACT REASONING of Dr. Roger Morse when he propose the creation of Master Beekeepers 30 years ago, a mechanism to LEARN successful beekeeping through the leadership of Certified Master Beekeepers rather than having to leave your home and attend college classes in beekeeping and entomology.

Am I implying that one has to have a college degree or even be a high school graduate to be a fine beekeeper? HELL, NO! and I repeat: OF COURSE NOT! Did you know that Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie and Alexander Graham Bell never went to college? And Langstroth was a Congregationalist Church (Methodist) minister! These men layed aside the normal person’s pursuits in life, and READ, READ, READ to gain knowledge so they could become a “master” in their chosen objective.

YOU can do likewise, if you just get off your lazy BUTT!

A Touch of History

Prior to 1984 (just 20 years ago), beekeeping did not require much knowledge, just hardwork. (I know because I got my first hive in June 1933, 3 months after FDR became President) We ONLY had American Foulbrood to worry about, and one hive out of every 3 in the whole U. S. had AFB! But trees were filled with wild bees, and these clusters were loaded with swarm cells in May, so you simply replaced your dead colony from AFB with a fresh swarm,, and it was FREE Beekeepers did not have to know much. They just donned gloves, veils, lots of clothes, rubber bands around their pants at the ankles, loaded 1-2 supers on their wheel barrow, waited til dusk when bees were quiet, dashed to the apiary, smoked hell out the bees with oily rags from the garage, dropped supers on, and did not TOUCH those colonies again for 3-4 or even 5 months. Then, repeating again, but in reverse, they dashed out and recovered those supers and hopefully got a total of 30-50 pounds of honey. Of course, the famous people did not do that and made lots more honey than 30-50 pounds, but these “experts” were few and far between; so I am telling you about the “average hobbyist” of that period on either side of World War II, like 1920-1980. By the way, I sold gorgeous square section comb honey in Bethesda for 250/pound in the 1930’s and my picture often appeared in the Washington Post or Evening Star, always showing my colonies and me without a VEIL. I forgot, people would bring Mason Jars to my law house and I would charge them 1O¢/pound for extracted honey. WHAT WONDERFUL DAYS, and they prompted me to READ, READ, READ, and learn more and more about successful beekeeping.

Just another SIDE-ISSUE. From 1933 to 1948, my 25 colonies were are Italians, and I requeened every few years with queens from York Bee Co. or VVilbanks, and my bees always did well getting maybe 100 pounds/colony; but those colonies were NOT BIG and STRONG until May, and our early nectar flow always started in early or mid April. Always reading and studying about bees, even though I was still testing and designing atomic bombs in my job with Atomic Energy Commission, the “famous” Steve Taber convinced me in 1948 to change my bees from Italians to Carniolans to take advantage of their late winter-early spring “explosive” brood increase to build STRONG colonies 2-3 weeks in advance of Italians. It took my next 5 years burning a lot of midnight oil READING and LEARNING about SWARM CONTROL, because CARNIES might swarm on a warm Christmas Day. After learning, and requeening EVERY YEAR so no queen of mine is ever 13 months old, my 10 year average yield got to be 132 pounds honey /colony in Maryland which has an average yield of only 29 pounds/colony. Carniolans are a fine bee, but require a lot of understanding and surely NOT the bee for an unskilled hobbyist, a beeHAVER, or a lazy beeKEEPER; but I love their quietness and docility on the comb. But ONLY New World Carniolans developed by SUE COBEY, and REQUEEN every 12 months, preferably in late August, but that is “another” subject of WHY?


Somehow, lots of guess’s, but no ‘one really knows, the microScopic, invisible to our human eye, TRACHEAL mite, ACARAPIS WOOD!, was found in the U.S. In spite of warnings by ARS and the 5 Federal Beekeeping Laboratories in the U. S., 95% of all beekeepers, both hobbyist and commercial operations, IGNORED these warnings and in 1985, some commercial beekeepers owning 5,000 or 10,000 colonies had lost 90%, and many hobbyists had lost 100%. More important, the wild honey bees nestled in every tree forest of the entire U.S. rapidly disappeared, and for the first time in history, vegetable growers in the U.S. found LOUSY CROPS because of lack of honey bee POLLINATION. The years of 1985 and 1986 were years of total perplexity, confusion, or bewilderment. WHAT HAPPENED TO MY BEES? was the hue and cry. Many just said the HELL WITH IT, and quit.

Beekeepers, already down for a count of 8, struggled in the hope that 1987 would be better. But ALAS, the dreaded Varroa mite, VARROA JACOBSON’, was found in the U. S., but so many beekeepers thought that this would be an easy problem to beat, because this mite was visible to our human eye, an ugly reddish brown, with 8 legs like a good Chesapeake Bay Crab (Yes, I love to eat Maryland crabs). NOT SO! How do you kill a mite on a bee without killing the bee or adulterating the honey? Now the bee scientists, the bee researchers, and the college entomologists had to forget all their academic research about apis mellifera, and get practical to aid all those suffering beekeepers and beehavers. They found fluvalinate made into Apistan strips and we were on our way to recovery, provided that you followed the scientist’s rules stated on the box, and not except some “jerk” laymen’s ideas about cures which used everything from vinegar, Hall’s mentholated cough drops, to syringe drips of penicillin on hive top bars. Of course, many more colonies were lost, and many beekeepers QUIT, Thank God to get rid of these nonconformists; but it left behind beekeepers who were willing to READ, LISTEN TO SCIENTISTS, and LEARN! Now in 2004, there are less beekeepers in the U.S. (Maryland only has 900+ compared to 3000 in 1984), but honey production is greater than ever before, simply meaning that successful beekeepers are more LEARNED beekeepers than in the past.

What do mean by the terms: MORE _EARNED or EDUCATED?

You READ, READ, and LISTEN to scientific beekeepers, and LEARN! The HELL with those local association meetings with those grand old guys‘that have had bees for 50 years! Ask them how many packages they have to buy every year or so to replace their losses; or ask them how many nucs can you sell each year. A GOOD beekeeper does NOT lose colonies, and always has bees to SELL, rather than buy new ones to replenish his losses. Think about it – How could a queen breeder or package bee supplier lose his bees “to a bad winter” every year or so? Skilled beekeepers DON’T LOSE BEES TO MITES OR “BAD WINTERS”. Many of these highly skilled professional beekeepers are NOT college trained, but were smart enough to carefully follow the findings of the bee researchers and bee scientists, as well as ABSORB GOOD BOOKS like lhe 1992 Extensively Revised Edition of the Hive and Honey Bee, published by Dadant’s Joe Graham and authored by perhaps the greatest collection of 34 bee researchers and bee scientists in the U.S. By the way, how many of you readers have ever read Chapter 8 of the H & HB written by Dr. Norm Gary? It is BORING reading, tell you nothing about “how to make more honey”, but it details BEE BEHAVIOR requiring 105 difficult pages or reading. You have watched me work bees at Montgomery County Fair year after year dressed in shorts and no veil, find the queen, pick her up and show the audience, and almost NEVER get stung. I am not LUCKY, but I do understand BEE BEHAVIOR; and you too can start learning by reading NORM GARY’S Chapter 8 in the 1300+ page book of The Hive and Honey Bee.

LISTEN to the talks by our Master Beekeepers of Montgomery County, hear M.B. Wayne Esaias at Howard County, or Steve Mc Daniel at Carroll County, Bill Troup or Nancy Troup at Hagerstown, Bob Crouse of Baltimore, Dean Burroughs of Salisbury, Billy Daniel of Loudon County, VA, of course, always my old bee partner, Ann Harman of Upper Piedmont, Va.. Why listen to someone WITHOUT PROVEN CREDENTIALS OF BEEKEEPING KNOWLEDGE rather than SOME ONE WHO HAS PROVEN THEMSELVES BY CERTIFICATION AS A MASTER BEEKEEPER, or pay attention to some local yokel who is a great guy, but cannot show you one strand of evidence of beekeeping knowledge.

Wow, I made a lot of people MAD with my criticism of knowledge lacking grand old time beekeepers. So did George W. Bush and John Kerry, or should I mention Abe Lincoln versus the Confederacy, or the killing of Hamilton by Aaron Burr. Difference of opinion started with Cain killing Abel, Ben Franklin changing sides from support of Great Britain to become a revolutionary “giant”, Patrick Henry’s proclamation of “Give me Liberty or give me Death”, and now, I include the RECENT findings about honey bees of people like Sue Cobey, Mark Winston, Tom Rinderer, Norm Gary, Harris and Hopkins, Morse, Caron, Calderone, Brother Adam, Cale, and I never want to forget Friedrich Ruttner, perhaps the greatest bee geneticist of the past 100 years. There are so many more of these brilliant scientists whose research has changed and strengthened all beekeeping. I can not leave without telling you about one more famous scientist, who wrote a very famous book about 1800 (and my copy was printed in my ancestral home of Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1832). His name was Francois HUBER, and he lived in Switzerland, and he was TOTALLY BLIND; but he studied honey bees based on the findings of his “good eye” assistant. Imagine sitting in a chair in the sunshine, and TOTALLY BLIND asking your assistant to remove combs from a hive and detail what he saw, “allowing those spoken findings to ‘soak into his brain'”, and then WRITE a book (Blind, and no typewriter or computer). WOWEE! I will bet that I have read the book 20 times, and it is amazingly accurate even by today’s findings. HUBER did NOT have an education, even as we know public school education in 2004, BUT HE GOT OFF HIS ASS AND LEARNED BY LISTENING TO THE SCHOLARS OF 1800. Both YOU and I can do likewise. I am ONLY BLIND in one eye!

Ending: What do mean about “Education about Honey Bees”?

It means effort, study, reading, work, listening ONLY to knowledge people irrespective of their fame, notoriety, position, or POPULARITY. I want you to forget the junk in the library, forget the badly outdated ABC and XYZ of Beekeeping (in spite of my friendship with Roger Morse and Kim Flottom) who revised that “once famous” book of beekeeping from the A. I. Root Family, and the greatest-part of my 100’s of hive bodies are Root made, the “Cadillac” of bee woodware when I started beekeeping 70+ years ago., and get “UP-TO-DATE”. Start by buying (about $25) Dr. Diana Sammataro’s BEEKEEPERS HANDBOOK, 3rd Edition, which many consider the finest beginner’s book ever written, and a must for those “want-to-be” old timers who just ignored LEARNING. Next, just like having the Bible beside your bed, a LEARNING beekeeper should have the 1992 EXTENSIVELY REVISED EDITION of The Hive and Honey Bee right on top of his desk, beside the computer, and within one year, its pages should be dirty or tattered by constant referral in this LEARNING process. Shucks, if you do not know what the “spiracles” of a worker bee respiratory system or how to describe the functions of the sting stylet and lancets, or the “dangerous” orthophosphate chemical in CHECKMITE, just ask me or any other Master Beekeeper. DON’T BE EMBARRASSED, it is the “job” of a Master Beekeeper to TEACH YOU, and FREE of charge.

What are those things that you should know as well as your Social Security Number; and SHOCKINGLY, most beeHAVERS and many beeKEEPERS don’t know:

  1. Development stages of the worker bee, queen bee, and drone bee
  2. Differences in the races of honey bees, and all about man-made HYBRIDS like Buckfast, Starlines. Midnights, AFRICANIZED honey bees, and “UNCLE CHARLIES”, or “Tennessee Bangers” or “Maryland’s Best”
  3. SUPERING: Particularly WHEN, and HOW MANY, and WHY SWARMING: Why? control? prevention? race difference? and WHEN? There is a HELL of difference between swarming BEFORE a nectar flow and swarming AFTER the nectar flow is in high gear
  4. DISEASES: Identification and treatment, and CAUSED BY WHAT?

Note that I never mentioned HONEY PRODUCTION. Back in 1932, my mentor, Dr.. James I. Hambleton, said repeatedly “All the action, both good and bad, is in the BROOD chamber. FORGET THE SUPERS, and pay strong attention to the actions in the BROOD chamber, and healthy bees will fill those supers”. I have never forgotten, and my bees have always been healthy for over 70 years, because I recognized AFB and DESTROYED the colony before it infected others, I treated at the RIGHT TIME for mites (not when it was just convenient to me).

In today’s times, you MUST accept the fact that our bees need HELP to survive, and I did NOT say, “change their lifestyle to modern day thinking”. Since the days of Adam and Eve, Cleopatra, Columbus, George Washington, or Bill Clinton, honey bees have NOT changed one iota, or learned a single new thing. How much can you learn in 42 days? How big is the honey bee brain? How did it survive in the Swiss Alps, Siberia, or Alaska for centuries without our help? Why do they need OUR HELP? Modern day “know-nothings”, constantly striving for another “buck, have led beginning beekeepers down that figmented road of riches via bees, and set good, successful beekeeping difficult to accomplish. MY PARAMOUNT concern about this is the fact that beginning beekeepers, and those old “fogies” out there, just ignore the scientific fact that honey bees have a total 1N-ABILITY to LEARN and hence can not change their life-styles to fit this 21st century. We SMART-ASS humans who have built computers, atomic bombs, transferred hearts and kidneys, gone to the moon, made polio obsolete, and can fly from Washington DC to gamble in Las Vegas in just 5 hours, have YET to accept the fact that successful beekeeping REQUIRES that the HUMAN must LEARN all about honey bees, their lifestyle, their diseases, their race differences, their BEE BEHAVIOR, and a thousand other LEARNABLE things about bees. All of what I have said means “YOU, I repeat YOU, have to get off your lazy butt, and LEARN if you want to be successful as a beekeeper. Valuable Post Script about Maryland STATE Beekeepers Assn. Some of you are NOT members of MSBA, and I cannot understand that! You say that you want to be a knowledgeable beeKEEPER, yet you won’t go to hear EXPERTS talk or read the writings of EXPERT Master Beekeepers. In the January 2005 BEELINE, the MSBA Newsletter, Master Beekeeper Bill Miller wrote about Dr. Tom Rinderer interpretation of “sound apiculture research with controlled experiments and the interpretation of those results.” Gary Reuter of the Univ. of Minnesota described an interesting management scheme whereby an overwintered colony is split, the parent colony becomes the honey producer and the split has a new queen, gets strong and becomes NEXT year’s honey producer. Dr. Nick Calderone of Cornell described all the factors of interpreting “sticky” board, ether roll, and alcohol wash TESTS to establish the % of Varroa infected bees.

He further talked about the efficiency of screened bottom boards. Dr. Jeff Pettis gave two talks about the effect of miticides on the health of queens, and that “hygienic” queens DO keep AFB under control, but only about half of all “supposedly” hygienic queens sold are truly hygienic! BILL MILLER, I SALUTE YOU FOR A SUPERB ARTICLE.

Not to be outdone by Bill Miller, Master Beekeeper Bill Troup wrote a FANTASTIC article about many of the chemicals used by beekeepers today, and a discussion of the GOOD and BAD points of these chemical. The list included Bee-Go, Honey Robber, Apistan, CheckMite, API Life-Var, Apicure, Mite-A-Thol, Sucrocide, Terramycin, Fumagillin-B, Para-Moth, Gardstar 40%, and talked much about Butyric Anhydride. WHAT A SUPERB JOB BILL TROUP HAS DONE WITH THIS ARTICLE, and I SALUTE YOU!

Jerry Fischer and MSBA President David Smith are inquiring about the interest of members in a ONE DAY course in ADVANCE BEEKEEPING to be held in June in which MASTER BEEKEEPERS would be heavily involved as instructors.

Our February 19th Winter Meeting at Howard county Fairgrounds is EXCITING provided YOU want to LEARN. It features TWO great researchers: Dr. Marion Ellis of University of Nebraska talking about colony MANAGEMENT for honey production and swarm and supersedure biology of bees. WOW! The second dynamite speaker is our “own” Dr. Dewey Caron of the Univ. of Delaware, and he will take about REQUEENING (one of my favorite subjects)

Lastly the Treasurer’s Report shows a balance of $4,000 in the George Imirie Education Fund. It can always use some more money to aid in beeKEEPER education! Can’t you find a few bucks to give to that fund, PLUS JOIN MSBA?

This BEELINE Newsletter is the FINEST that I have seen in years ABOUT EDUCATION! I SALUTE THE EDITOR AND PRESIDENT! For any of you Montgomery County members who did not receive it, just ask ME and I will make copies for you at my own expense and mail them to you, but HURRY, because I will be traveling all over the U. S. and visiting queen breeders and bee equipment houses with my new Las Vegas fiancee.

Rather TYPICAL of me, I make NO apologies for rudeness. Someone had to do it eventually to gain a proper dedication of others to successful beekeeping.

I end this tirade with THANKS to all those many fine beeHAVERS who followed my thoughts over the last 20 years, and some even became teaching CERTIFIED Master Beekeepers and many more became good beekeepers. That HUMBLES me.

George W. Imirie, Jr.
Certified EAS Master Beekeeper

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