January 1998

George Imirie’s PINK PAGES

Having your Cake and Eating it too! & Think-Learn-Enjoy

In our area this past spring, our nectar flow was about three weeks late, and many colonies swarmed before the flow. Further, some beekeepers judged the year as a loss about June 1st, and lost interest in hive management; and when the nectar flow suddenly materialized in June, colonies which had swarmed were not strong enough to produce a good crop, and those colonies who had not swarmed in May did swarm in June because the super space was inadequate! Many local beekeepers were unhappy about the loss of SWARMS and HONEY; and when you coupled these problems with the management and cost (menthol & Apistan) of freeing of bees with mites, some even said: “enough is enough!” All of this COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED, and to UPGRADE your management knowledge, I’ll tell you how. MAKE a spring SPLIT and RECOMBINE in late SUMMER! I will “broadly” explain this month and provide you with DETAILS next month. However, I don’t believe in just telling you WHAT TO DO, but rather it is more important that you understand WHY to do these “things”, so follow my thoughts below:

To produce a good honey crop, a colony must have a tremendous number of FORAGING AGE bees (over 19 days old), and the total colony strength in May should be at least 40,000, and 60,000 is much better. If a foraging bee is on site on May 1st, the queen had to lay “its” egg 40 days before, March 21st. Next month I will give details on how to get the queen laying hard in February and March – you watch for 5 pound bag of sugar on sale…and buy about 5 of them for each colony.

The NUMBER ONE cause of swarming is BROOD CHAMBER CONGESTION (not super space).

The NUMBER TWO cause of swarming is the age of the queen (a two year old queen is “ancient”, and a thirteen month old queen not unlike a 40-45 year old beautiful woman.) Real young queens can lay more eggs and produce higher quantities of queen pheromone to spread a among a larger group of worker bees thereby retarding thoughts of swarming.

The NUMBER THREE cause of swarming which occurs DURING THE NECTAR FLOW (not before) is the lack of super space for NECTAR STORAGE, while they wait for the nectar to be cured to thick honey. As I have repeatedly told you, a beekeepers most valued possession is DRAWN COMB, and don’t forget it! There is only one sure way to make bees build comb from foundation, and that is: They need comb either to raise brood or store nectar: so there must be a nectar flow (real or artificial nectar) to force the bees to build comb! Although all bees, regardless of age, can build comb, the most proficient wax producers are nesting bees, particularly 12 day old bees. Now you know why a freshly hived swarm builds comb like crazy – they NEED comb QUICKLY!

A good beekeeper just does not stand for some “unknown” queen bred to to unknown “fly-by-night” drone to take over a colony after it swarmed or or the old queen was supercede because most of the time such a queen is not very good and your colony will not produce very well in the future. You either raise your queens (silly thought) or spend $8-$10 for a new real young MARKED queen with a good “pedigree”.. maybe you don’t care whether it is Italian or Buckfast, but have about a “killer”, Africanized Scutellata. That would be enough to make your neighbors petition the county to “outlaw beekeeping”.

When you RECOMBINE the split colony later in the summer, you will kill the old queen and replace her with the new queen that you just got in April – you have REQUEENED. What are you going to need to accomplish this “have your cake and eat it too” program of splitting a colony into two colonies for three-four months and then recombine back to one? A) Most important – Believe that I am correct. believe that YOU can do it, do it “my” way as I instruct you to, don’t Cheat by substituting. do it by my time schedule (not when it is convenient to you), and Congratulate yourself on the UPGRADE of your apian skills when it is proven successful! Now (right now) ORDER a “pedigree” MARKED queen from a highly reputable queen breeder (price is UNimportant) for the delivery on TAX DAY, April 15th. I suggest Pat Heitkam or Kona Queen for Carniolans, Binford Weaver for Buckfast, and Reg Wilbanks or Fred Rossman for Italians. If you tell them that I am following George Imirie’s ideas, in my conceit, I’ll say it might help you, because I am respected. Although I believe that Carniolans are the very best bee for our very early spring crop, Carniolans are NOT the very best bee for an unskilled or novice or careless beekeeper, because you will lose swarms. You are no longer a beeHAVER when you can successfully manage Carniolans.

You will need a complete “new” hive of 2 deeps (or 3 Illinois), 10 new frames per body (NOT 9), new foundation (suit yourself, but why don’t you try Plasticell (Dadant), 2 new Apistan strips, about 25 pounds of sugar, about 2 pounds pollen substitute (Bee Pro), and maybe a queen excluder and one super.

You might say, “George, why all this stuff cost about $100 to $150 bucks. What do I gain ?” Next year and the years after, you will only purchase another Marked queen and sugar. However, you have prevented the parent colony from swarming, it will produce perhaps 100-150 pounds of honey selling for $3.50 per pound, and you have REQUEENED with a fairly young “pedigree” queen, and you have UPGRADED YOURSELF and you have GAINED FAME, plus you had FUN!


How about this weather! This past weekend I opened my 15 colonies and found them boiling with bees in some young brood in most. I will admit they went into fall strong, plus I combined some, and they are Carniolans (guess I shouldn’t say that) which get going early while other races are still resting.

I will split every colony this spring, because my strokes would not allow me to make my normal fall requeening. this will prevent swarming in April and May. But this is not my only joy of the weekend, because there was a surprise phone call for me from Marcia McCutcheon, Past President of Central Maryland Beekeepers up around Baltimore. She called to tell me that she and her husband have been “memorizing” my Pink Pages for a couple of years, changed her programs to fit my thoughts of better beekeeping, and NOW was enjoying her bees. It is wonderful for me to see these people who have been taking my FREE advice and don’t lose bees to mites and disease, make tubs of honey, and finally learn this most important part of beekeeping – Having Fun and Enjoying their Accomplishments!

You can do it too! All you have to do is QUIT BITCHING about bad queens, bad weather, no-good mites, stings, gotta buy stuff, can’t sell the honey if I get any and 50 other “lame-brain” excuses for being lazy and embarrassed. George, what do you mean “lazy and embarrassed”? There are non-believers out there that think there is “nothing to beekeeping,” uneducated farmers kept bees for centuries, “Ma Daddy did it, and he didn’t have to learn anything more than his Daddy knew”. BUT THIS IS 1998!

Movable frames (just 140 years ago), the smoker and extractor are about 120 years old, the mites did not come until 13 years ago, the Africanized honeybee had not crossed the Rio Grande 15 years ago, and the AMERICAN PUBLIC was not put into panic about bee stings until the news media and the grocery store tabloids found that lies, exageration, and fear of the unknown sold to non-thinking people. You find yourself embarassed by your LACK of knowledge about bee behavior, lifestyle, pollination ability, working without fear of stings, colony management, disease and its contol, and fear of being censured by your neighbors..

When I and other MCBA Master Beekeepers, the Maryland State Beekeepers Association beg you to join in and upgrade yourself from HAVER to KEEPER, plus attending EAS annual conferences filled with researchers, entomologists and scientists all trying to improve (update) your knowledge and doing this FREE OF CHARGE FOR YOU, and you don’t bother to come in and learn, then I will stand pat and say “you are lazy”!

Like a New Years Resolution, why don’t you say to yourself: Boy, I am not going to give George any satisfaction by admitting that maybe that he is right, so I am going to start going to meetings with an open mind, listen to what these scientists say, and see if I can upgrade my apian skills.

I promise you that you wil learn the fun and enjoyment as you learn more, and you will suddenly be ten feet tall! Although this is January of 1998, which to humans is the New Year; however, a honeybees New year is late September and early October because that is when a good beekeeper gets his bees ready for the coming year!

With that in mind, I will give the important things you can still do to start your program of UPGRADING yourself: Order a new Marked queen now for delivery about April 15th, and plan on splitting your colony when that queen arrives which will probably stop the parent colony from swarming. About February 1st, start feeding your colony 1:1 sugar syrup to encourage the queen to lay. Put in a patty of pollen substitute just in case your colony is short. If you have drawn comb frames, get at least 3 nine-frame supers ready to put the bees on April 15th (tax day). If no drawn comb, put on one 10 frame super of foundation on by April 15th, followed by each succeeding week or 10 days with another foundation super for a total of at least 3, 5 is better. Starting Feb. 1st, reverse your brood chambers about every 10 days, so that the queen and egg laying space is more-or-less always on the bottom and the capped brood on top. Continue reversing until good nectar flow starts, late April – early May. Attend every meeting possible to learn and ask questions of Master Beekeepers. Don’t go to dentist Dr. Smith for a tonsilectomy, or Elvis Presley to hear a Strauss waltz. Hunt up your Master Beekeepers. They want to help you and know how. Read my Pink Pages. I will keep writing as long as possible.

George W. Imirie
Maryland Certified Master Beekeeper
Started Beekeeping in 1933

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