November 2003

George Imirie’s PINK PAGES

TIMING is so Very Important

  1. There is little question among scientists that menthol is the most effective killer of the TRACHEAL mite; and in spite of what you may have heard, tracheal mites are still in most states, counties, and surely, in central Maryland. However, menthol MUST be used at the RIGHT time, or it does not work at all; and that time for Montgomery County is installation in the BROOD nest area on AUGUST 15th and BEFORE SEPTEMBER 1st. Why? The infected worker bee has to breathe the menthol GAS (not the smell) to kill the mites trapped in the trachea of the bee, and this GAS has to be present over many days to effectively reach all the worker bees.Here is the problem: Menthol does not sublime (turn from solid crystals into a GAS) until it reaches a temperature of 85°F! There are very few days after September 1st that the temperature goes over 85° and hence menthol just does not kill many tracheal mites if it is installed after September 1st.Suppose you don’t want to use menthol, but prefer the GREASE PATTIE treatment discovered by Dr. Diana Sammataro. Here too, timing is important. Grease Patties (NOT Extender patties which are made with Terramycin) MUST be CONTINUOUSLY used from July 1st through Christmas to effectively control tracheal mites. In other words, they have to be continuously present in the brood chamber of the colony for SIX MONTHS.Grease Patties are made from 2 parts of table sugar mixed with one part of Crisco. On some warm, calm day, like 50° in JANUARY 2004, you open your colony to casually inspect it, and there is still lots of stored capped honey, but only a cup full of dead bees and queen. The TRACHEAL mites have killed your bees, because you did NOT follow the dates that I described or maybe you believed all those NON scientists that told you that Montgomery County was free of acarapis woodi.By the way, cold weather does NOT kill healthy bees, in case you want to use that as an excuse for the loss of your bees. The famous entomologist and bee researcher, Dr. E. Southwick, exposed bees to various low temperatures for various sustained periods up to several months and as low as -60°, and proved that cold does not kill healthy bees. Maryland rarely has a day that is 0° or -10°; and equally rare is having any 30 day period that the temperature doesn’t go above 50° for at least one day. There is NO excuse for not taking a few hours off from work and OPEN your colonies and quickly inspect them on some day in January or February when the temperature goes over 50°, or don’t you care if they die?Why do I say that? So many of the Hive Management procedures just DON’T work AT ALL or work poorly if they are NOT done at the right time! The date that each procedure is done is VERY dependent on the weather, colony location, altitude, and geographic location. Hence, the times I name probably are not valid for places like our western Maryland mountains, New York, or South Carolina; but will normally be QUITE VALID for Montgomery County and other central Maryland locations. Let me tell you of a few, and I will give you the SCIENTIFIC reasons for why a certain date is the CORRECT, RIGHT, or BEST time for the beekeeper to do the procedure.
  2. There is little question that the Varroa mite is a more serious problem then the tracheal mite. Here again, people are treating varroa jacobsoni with several different products including some PROVEN absolutely valueless by honey bee scientists or researchers, and almost everyone is treating at the WRONG time or treating multiple times, because it is INCONVENIENT for them to do it at the CORRECT time with a proven chemical, and treat only ONCE each year.Let me explain the SCIENCE of treating “late” in the year, and thereby only having to treat ONCE each year. What is the CORRECT time for treatment in Montgomery County, and with what chemical? The BEST time to install either Apistan or CheckMite (which I don’t like) is October 1st up to perhaps October 15th, and those strips MUST be left in place for a minimum of 6 weeks, but no longer than 8 weeks. This treatment will kill 99% of all varroa mites; but you dare not leave those trips in after December 1st because you will make the remaining FEW live mites RESISTANT to the pesticide used.You can find a warm 50° day in late November when you leave work early, dash home, and quickly open a colony and remove the 4 strips. Let me explain why October (not September, or April, or any other month) is the BEST month for Varroa treatment.All of our pesticides; Apistan, CheckMite, or ApiLife, are CONTACT KILLERS, where the bee must touch the strip in order for the chemical to kill the mite. Hence, the chemical does NOT kill any mites in a capped bee cell of the brood chamber, and THIS IS THE LOCATION of ALL baby mites! The female mite will ONLY lay new mite eggs in just one location, a honey bee larval cell just one day before the bees cap that cell. Here, the mite eggs hatch, become larva that feed on the “baby” bee’s hemolymph, become adults and emerge as adult mites when the now deformed and weak honey bee emerges from its cell. It should be obvious that the BEST time to kill 99% of all adult mites and not have any baby mites developing is when the QUEEN BEE has greatly diminished her egg laying or completely stopped egg laying! In Montgomery County, queens are laying very little after October 1st, and generally completely stop about mid ovember. Hence, using this procedure, my bees have almost ZERO varroa mites through the winter and early spring months, and what mites they acquire during the summer and early fall, the bees can handle themselves without more treatment. HERE AGAIN, the TIME that you treat is so important, and treating at YOUR convenience rather than a TIME based on scientific facts is usually in error.By the way, if FGMO or essential oils like wintergreen, truly worked to kill varroa mites, don’t you think that some or all the honey bee scientists/researchers would have announced it and supported it years ago. In private talks that I have had with many of the scientists working in our bee labs as well as our universities, many have told me, that they had tried these things for years, and they could NOT endorse them, because all of them were so NON dependable, killing mites in some colonies but not in others, killing mites one year, but not the next, or sometimes requiring rags or paper soaked in the chemical, but other times requiring an electric fogger to be used in the colony.Meanwhile, FRESH Apistan or CheckMite always kills mites UNLESS careless beekeepers have created resistant mites by exposing them to long term contact with the pesticide by leaving the strips in the colony all winter; or have left unused strips out in the sun or subjected to heat by leaving the package laying round in the hot sun in their car or garage. APISTAN and/or CHECKMITE deteriorates when left out to air exposure, sun shine, or heat. OCTOBER 1st IS THE BEST DATE TO INSTALL APISTAN OR CHECKMITE IN YOUR COLONY IN MONTGOMERY COUNTY.
  3. How well can you work when you have diarrhea? Worker bees don’t do a very good job of nectar collecting if they have diarrhea; and bee scientists have estimated that 60% of all the hived bees in the U.S. have Nosema disease in the spring, and a major symptom of Nosema is DIARRHEA. Nosema rarely kills a colony, but it can surely weaken its effectiveness in honey production. $2 of Fumadil-B is the only treatment for Nosema, but when do you give it to the bees? Our spring buildup time is February and March to be STRONG for our April and May nectar collection.Bees that are sick with Nosema in February and March, and hence are suffering with diarrhea, just are not strong enough to raise much brood, keep the brood warm, take good care of the queen, or collect pollen. Therefore, the BEST time to feed the $2 dose of Fumadil-B to your bees is in the sugar syrup that you feed in LATE October and all of November, so the bees store this away as winter survival food, and as they eat in the months of December and January, they are getting constant continuous doses of Fumadil-B so-they are free of Nosema disease. There is a BEST time for treatment of EVERYTHING!
  4. In Montgomery County, Dandelion blooms in late March or early April. Our MAJOR nectar sources are Black Locust which might bloom by April 15th and surely before May 1st, and this is followed 2-3 weeks later by Tulip Poplar, and ALL of this ENDS about June 1st. This a very short time for the bees to make 100 or maybe 150 pounds of honey, so your supers sitting in the garage or basement or non-painted aren’t helping your bees at all, so they SWARM. They weren’t “bad” bees, but they had a “bad” beekeeper who did not pay attention to the proper TIME to install supers.. tempus fugit or “time marches on”. Perhaps, Saint Patrick’s Day Parties on March 17th, or EASTER Sunday on April 11th or working on your income tax for April 15th took too much of your time to worry about your bees. Who are YOU going to blame when your bees swarm and/or produce little honey? TIMING IS IMPORTANT! Install your first medium super without any queen excluder on April 1st, FOOL’S DAY, and place a queen excluder under that super on April 15th and add FOUR MORE medium supers of drawn comb ALL AT ONE TIME. Now your bees are ready to make you 3-4 full supers of capped honey for you to extract on July 4th. You CAN’T do this using foundation. You MUST use frames of drawn comb. WHY use 5 supers if the harvest is only 3-4 supers? Bees do not fly out and gather HONEY. They gather thin, watery nectar, as much as 25 pounds in one day, bring it to the hive and store it until the bees can evaporate perhaps 80% of the water and ripen it into thick wonderful HONEY. If the bees have no space (extra supers) to store this nectar until they can ripen it, they STOP working and SWARM. THIS is why you install 5 supers to make 3-4 supers of honey! Known for my bluntness and never apologizing in my efforts to make you into a better beekeeper, I will say that there is NO WAY that you can save money by only using 2-3 supers, and almost daily removing the capped frames of honey, replacing them with empty frames of drawn comb, because the bees just can’t do the work of evaporating water from the nectar, ripening the honey, and capping the cells with wax, as fast as more space is needed to store more nectar. Hence, don’t be CHEAP, buy 5 medium supers, frames, and foundation for every colony!
  5. Why do you REQUEEN in the spring? Queens are expensive, may not be well bred, rarely delivered to you on time, and certainly “screws up” a colony right in the midst of our ONLY yearly nectar flow? Spring requeening in Montgomery County is just ridiculous. The great majority of commercial beekeepers which might have 5000 or 10,000 colonies requeen in the faII. These beekeepers make a living from their bees and depend on honey production, so they requeen EVERY YEAR, but always in the late summer or early fall. If you doubt me, come to the January meeting of the American Beekeeping Federation in Jacksonville, FL, and talk to these commercial beekeepers who have anywhere from 5000 colonies to 60,000 colonies (Yes, Richard Adee has 60,000 colonies and requeens all of them every fall). Doesn’t THAT tell you something! Fall queens are BETTER BRED, are delivered on whatever day you prescribe, do not interfere with your nectar flow, and are cheaper (which should NOT be important to we hobbyists). Late Summer or Fall requeening is much better for everything about success with bees than any spring requeeningl I will agree that fall requeening runs the risk of a new queen being killed, but NOT if you requeen via the nucleus method such as “Imirie’s Almost Foolproof Requeening Method” that I have used for over 40 years and rarely lose a queen. What are its “other features”? I have TWO queens, both the old and the new queen, laying brood for about 4-6 weeks in September to give me a large number of young bees to winter, warm the colony, take care of the queen, and WARM the new brood; but the most important thing is the fact that this NEW queen is so young that she can produce enough queen pheromone in the spring brood rearing season that the pheromone retards all SWARMING impulses by the worker bees. If THAT is not important to you, I suggest you give up beekeeping and take up something like raising pigeons or catching butterflies. Have I insulted you? Good, I am trying hard to make you a better beekeeper! Why is beekeeping so important to me, and hopefully YOU. I like orange juice for breakfast, a salad for lunch that has cucumbers, onions, a smidge of broccoli, and a wedge of cantaloupe or watermelon, and a protein dinner of filet mignon steak followed by pumpkin pie or apple pie with vanilla ice cream ala mode. You are supposed to know ALL about honey bees. Don’t you know that without honey bee pollination, none those meal menu’s I described would be available at your local grocery store except at very high prices? And I love ICE CREAM, but without that high protein alfalfa hay, pollinated by honey bees, that dairy cow is not gong to produce much quality milk with lots of cream. Here, again is Hard-Nose George begging you to maintain the health of your bees as if they were your children.

‘nough Said!

George W. Imirie, Jr.
Certified EAS Master Beekeeper

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