July 2002

George Imirie’s PINK PAGES

The “Show is Over” – What’s Next?

In our central Maryland area, my scale hive stopped showing any increase in weight right on time, May 31st. It lost 7 pounds during the next 21 days, and now the dearth of nectar during July and August will be upon us making bees frustrated and cranky just like you get in the hot, sticky weather of this time of year in Washington, DC. It is a fine time of year to harvest the honey, and stay away from your bees to give both you and the bees a rest until mid August.

Newer beekeepers, and indeed some of the older beekeepers, see all the bloom of flowers, shrubs, vegetables and just can’t believe that there is little or no nectar being produced to make honey. Those of us, who have made constant use of scale hive observations for many years can assure you that with a few rare exceptions, no honey is made in our area from about June 10th until the goldenrod makes its appearance about mid August. This is the reason that the EAS annual meeting is held in August and the county FAIRS are held in August and September. In isolated areas in Washington County or Frederick County, one might find some basswood nectar in early July, and years ago when alfalfa was cut with horse drawn equipment rather than tractors, one might get Alfalfa nectar in August. But like computers have replaced typewriters and most people walk around carrying a cell phone today, TIMES CHANGE, and things just “ain’t” like they used to be.

Harvest your honey NOW, around July 4th, before the wax is travel stained, and it is HOT, so extraction is so much easier than trying to do it with 70° honey. Don’t extract a frame that isn’t about 90% capped, or you run the risk of having the NON ripened honey cause all your ripened honey to ferment. Further, since all honey is hygroscopic (absorbs water out of the air), while you are extracting, straining, settling, and bottling, keep the honey covered at all times so it doesn’t get a chance to absorb any water vapor that might change its quality from a desirable 16%-17% moisture concentration to a moisture over 18.6% which causes the honey to ferment. Without going into great detail, let me explain fermentation. All honey is made up of several different sugars, the two most important ones are liquid Fructose which might run from 35%-50% and normally solid Glucose which might run from 25%-40%. Dust, small pieces of wax, pollen, or air that are in the extracted honey act as a starting point for the dissolved glucose to crystallize back to its normal solid state and this raises the moisture concentration of the rest of the honey mixture where natural yeasts can grow that cause the honey to ferment into vinegar or controlled into alcoholic mead. The “lesson” here is “Don’t allow your honey to be exposed to humid air any more than possible, and don’t give fermentation a good start by extracting frames that are less than about 90% capped”.

Be a PROUD beekeeper and show the world what your bees have produced for you, and your skills in bringing that honey to market or gift by EXHIBITING the honey at our local county FAIR; and you might WIN SOME MONEY PRIZES and surely a fancy ribbon. And since you are at the FAIR hoping all will see your BEST OF SHOW ribbon, you are badly needed to give the FAIR attendees just 4 hours of your time as a volunteer explaining the importance of honey bee pollination of our human food supply. By the way, California wanted 1 million colonies of bees to pollinate their almond crop this past February, but were only able to get about 650,000 colonies which means poor pollination resulting in increased prices for almonds this year. The same thing could happen to the pollination of apples, oranges, cranberries, blueberries, cucumbers, watermelons, cantaloupe, squash, lima beans, broccoli, and numerous other fruit or vegetables. Our honey bees pollinate 35% of all our human food, so they are pretty important “critters”; but the UNINFORMED people, including our legislators, only think of our bees as “honey and sting”. It is your RESPONSIBILITY to correct the public thinking about honey bees, because “old George” can’t do everything.

You don’t want to have to buy new bees for next year, so why let your bees be killed by mites, PMS (parasitic mite syndrome), or an old queen that dies in the fall or winter. So be a beeKEEPER, not a beeHAVER. Right after harvesting your honey, examine their varroa mite infection using the sticky board test or (I hate) the ether roll test, and if the varroa mite infection is high, add APISTAN strips right away in July to kill these mites. Further, since the Tracheal mite is microscopic and hence invisible to the human eye, too many beekeepers just don’t bother to treat for tracheal mites, and then blame the death of their bees in January on cold weather, just proving their ignorance of honey bee diseases. It is so simple to kill tracheal mites by just placing 50 grams of MENTHOL in the brood chamber on AUGUST 15th in our area. September IS TOO LATE and the tracheal mites will NOT be killed because the honey bees have to breath the gaseous fumes of the menthol, and menthol does not sublime from solid state to gaseous state until it reaches a temperature of 84°, and there are not many days in September that go to 84°. Don’t pay any attention to some of these non-scientists that say that menthol does not work. Most of them were trying to get some late honey and did not put menthol in the colony until September or even October, and this poor management just killed their bees, and they blamed the death on cold weather. BALONEY!

In the last 20 years, it had been WELL PROVEN by bee scientists, researchers, and professional apiculturists that swarming with the normal loss of honey crop can be drastically reduced by REQUEENING every year, never allowing a queen to live longer than 12 months. Almost all professional honey producers requeen every 12 months and some migratory honey producers requeen twice each year to minimize swarming. Many of these professionals requeen in the fall, so they don’t “screw up” their spring honey production. I have always requeened by Labor Day in September, because fall queens are far better bred than spring queens, cheaper to buy, and the queen breeder will deliver them to you on the EXACT date that you request because he is not so busy. I enclose an old PINK PAGE about Imirie’s Almost Foolproof Method of Requeening.

Lastly, kill as many Varroa mites as possible, so your bees enter the winter free of mites, and will remain almost free of mites during the spring nectar flow time. Varroa mite eggs are ONLY laid in with honey bee larva about 1 day before the honey bee larva cell is capped. Queens dramatically reduce their egg laying about October 1st and totally stop about mid November. When there is little or no honey bee larvae in a colony, there is no place for the Varroa mite to lay new mite eggs. Hence, wait as late as possible to install Apistan strips to your colonies, so that is present during the time the queen bee is curtailing her laying eggs. I install my Apistan strips on October 1st, leave them in place for 6 weeks, or about November 15th, BUT ALWAYS REMOVE THEM BEFORE DECEMBER 1ST to prevent growing RESISTANT MITES. There are ALWAYS some afternoons between November 15th and December 1st that the temperature exceeds 50°, and you can dash home from work and remove those Apistan strips. Gosh, people take a few hours off their job to go to the dentist, do some shopping, go to a birthday party, pickup the kids at school or take them to soccer practice. Aren’t your bees IMPORTANT enough to you that you can’t properly manage their health by taking a few hours off from work on a warm afternoon to remove these strips? The scientists have CLEARLY PROVEN that leaving the strips in place longer than the 6-8 weeks treatment time creates mites that are resistant to Apistan , so you have to switch to some other chemical to protect your bees from varroa mites, and if you are still careless with leaving that new chemical in place during the next year or so, you may not be able to find another chemical to kill varroa mites; and the only blame for your loss of bees was YOUR OWN POOR MANAGEMENT after being told the proper way of management. You EXECUTED YOUR OWN BEES! Some want to argue, but Reg Wilbanks doesn’t lose any bees to mites, nor does Binford Weaver, or Fred Rossman, or Pat Heitkam, or Sue Cobey, or Marla Spivak, or frankly, me. Our bees are MANAGED by the up-to-date findings of our bee scientists and we have changed our management techniques with each new PROVEN finding. Since I founded the present Montgomery County Beekeepers Association 18 years ago, this is what I have been continually trying to teach you the necessary management techniques to be a successful beekeeper since the introduction of the tracheal mite in 1984, the varroa mite in 1987, the Africanized Honey Bee in 1990 which has badly frightened the American public with the “killer” bee, PMS (parasitic Mite Syndrome in 1995), the small hive beetle in 1998, and resistant American Foul brood in 2000. I am very pleased in the performance of many of our 150+ members, but very upset by some of our NON LEARNING procrastinators.

So many people just don’t understand we scientists who drove our mothers “nuts” by asking “why” about everything and anything, and when you get to my ancient age, you are STILL TRYING TO LEARN WHAT IS NEW EACH DAY! The day that I stop trying to LEARN, you can find me at Pumphrey’s Funeral Home. Bet you did not know that Bob Pumphrey, now dead, was my roommate back in the 30’s at Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock, Virginia, and my father learned beekeeping from my letters to him and became a fine beekeeper who didn’t stop until he turned 90.

Christmas will be coming shortly. Throw away any of those bee books that you have that were written prior to 1990, no matter how famous the author was, because you can no longer keep bees “like Daddy Kept bees”, and you must use the new found management techniques that have been scientifically PROVEN during these past 18 years in order to be successful today. Tell your family that you want a Christmas present of the 1992 Extensively Revised Edition of the 1300+ page Hive and the Honey Bee for just $36, or Dr. Dewey Caron’s 1999 book, Honey Bee Biology and Beekeeping, for about the same price. You couldn’t repair your car’s INJECTED FUEL system by reading an old book about a carburetor fuel system; and you cannot keep bees like bees were kept 20 years ago. If you cannot accept this, I suggest you learn raising pigeons or catching butterflies because nothing has changed here in the last 100 years.

Suffering 5 strokes in the past 12 years and having 5 surgeries (3 this year) for restoring of my speech, I have to think of doing less for you, and hence I hope that I have set a strong pattern for you to follow to be as successful as some of us that have been willing to CHANGE WITH THE TIMES during these tortuous past 18 years. I don’t have the slightest desire to “slow down”, but my “golden” years have turned into “rusting” years, and that burden will slow me dramatically. I will just have to develop some more MASTER BEEKEEPERS who can take my place.

This is your final Honey Pot unless your dues are paid! The $10 dues was due in May. You were notified in April, May, and June, and that is ENOUGH. If there is a RED circle on your address label of this Honey Pot, unless I have made a mistake in my records, you have not paid the dues, so reluctantly, you will be dropped from membership in our association, but I wish you well and hope that you have LEARNED much about good beekeeping in your stay of membership. I AM JUST ANOTHER HUMAN, AND DO MAKE MISTAKES. If I have “screwed up”, don’t get mad, just tell me, so I don’t drop your membership.

Hopefully, you have just forgotten to pay, and if that is so, try to add a little something extra to the $10 dues to help pay the cost of printing and mailing of the PINK PAGES; BUT DO IT RIGHT AWAY!

Don’t miss the July 10th meeting featuring Master Beekeeper and Famous Photographer Steve McDaniel!

George Imirie
Certified EAS Master Beekeeper

Scroll to Top