December 2003

George Imirie’s PINK PAGES


Isn’t it great to see this COLD winter weather arrive! While my bees are all snuggled in their winter cluster just keeping warm and eating very little, because the queen is not laying any brood, it is time for OLD GEORGE to relax and have some FUN for myself before I again have honey bee “responsibilities” in late January.

Some might say, “WHAT responsibilities in late January when it is SO cold, maybe even snow covering the hives?” Maybe you are content with a colony production of only 40-50 pounds of honey made in April and May; but for years, my colonies average over 125 pounds/colony and my sons sell it at the Montgomery County Fair for an average of $3.50/pound, and this puts “extra ‘change’ in their pocket”. WHAT do I do in late January, and WHY do I do it?

In Montgomery County, our nectar flow normally begins when dandelions appear about April 15th, and ENDS in 6-8 weeks which is June 15th. Most people, seeing all the blooming flowers and trees just DO NOT UNDERSTAND why honey is not made in late June, July, or August. Honey bees only gather nectar from particular blooms, and none of these particular blooms occur after about June 15th in our county. Hence, all of our honey has to be made in the very short 6-8 weeks between April 15th and June 15th. Knowledgeable beekeepers recognize the fact that a bee does not become a foraging bee until FORTY DAYS after the queen lays the worker egg! FORTY DAYS! FORTY DAYS! Hence, if a bee is old enough to forage on April 15th, the egg that produced that bee had to be laid by the queen before MARCH 6th (3/6 to 4/15 = 40 days).

It requires a lot of cluster heating bees to raise the cluster temperature to 91°-96° for the queen to lay eggs. Also, there MUST be LOTS of stored food in the colony to feed all this newly laid brood. Camiolan queens will start laying eggs shortly after January 1st, and Italian queens will start laying 2-3 weeks later, or near February 1st IN OUR COUNTY (Cumberland, MD, St. Marys, MD, or Richmond, VA are all going to be earlier or later than Montgomery County because of their location or altitude). You can FOOL the bees into thinking early spring has arrived by FEEDING them 1:1 or even 1:2 THIN sugar syrup, and they will get the queen laying. I hope you remember that the worker bees have total control over the queen’s action by controlling how much they feed her. Knowing that most of the worker bees produced from eggs laid in late January or early February will NOT be foraging bees, but they are VITALLY necessary to keep many frames of brood warm enough so that the brood is not killed by CHILLING, and hence I start sugar feeding of very thin syrup in late January to get my queens laying brood. By doing this, I have a STRONG force of foraging bees in late April and all of May. Of course, when doing this, you are promoting swarming, so you have to use all the swarm control techniques that science has taught us; and of course the Number ONE swarm control technique is to have a VERY YOUNG QUEEN (less than 6-8 months old, and that is why like FALL requeening instead of spring requeening).

AD NAUSEUM, I have preached that you cannot determine whether a colony is alive or dead by looking at the front entrance to see if they are flying on a warm day in January. The colony might be dead, and the bees you see flying in and out are robber bees from some other colony. Select some warm day, over 55° and no wind, take off the inner cover and inspect for BROOD. If brood is present, close the hive, give thanks, and relax. You can do that in 10 minutes.

More bees STARVE TO DEATH in MARCH than any other month, because brood rearing is intense and brood rearing requires a lot of food for the bee larvae, and a lot of food for the bees to maintain colony warmth so the brood will not chill. Don’t let your bees STARVE – How would like to starve to death? That is why you should buy sugar every time it is on sale CHEAP, so you have it ready if your bees need feed. Further, when the temperature is below 50°, bees WON’T or CAN’T move 2 inches away from their warming cluster to get feed, so FORGET that “super-like hive top feeder”, that stupid DIVISION BOARD feeder, and that ridiculous Boardman front entrance feeder. You MUST get your feeder almost touching the bees, like an upside jar of syrup on the inner cover hole or right on top the frames after the inner cover is removed. Can’t you spend $1.50 to buy a 5 pound sack of sugar to keep your bees alive? Shucks, if the bees don’t need it, you make lots of cookies or cakes for your family or the church auction. DON’T LET YOUR BEES STARVE TO DEATH!

NO December Meeting
The January 14th Meeting will be a “ducey”

Headlined by EAS’s newest MASTER BEEKEEPER, Pat Haskell, supported by Master Beekeeper Billy Davis (a master of many things), and maybe Master Beekeeper Bill Troup (a Maryland Bee Inspector) and Master Beekeeper Nancy Troup, who equals Bill in bee knowledge, but “hides” in the background and still teaches school. ALL will be finalized in your January Honey Pot regarding TALK TITLE, WHO TALKS, and WHY it is important for YOU to be there. I will write all of that info to you in the January Honey Pot while I am in Williamsburg for Christmas And New Years and proceeding further SOUTH to Charleston, SC; Savannah, GA; ending in Jacksonville, FL for the annual meeting of the American Beekeepers Federation and TALK to queen breeders, honey producers, scientists and researchers, equipment suppliers, and a whole bunch of long time beekeeping friends. Since “the cat is already out of the bag”, my old Mormon employee of 48 years ago from Utah and Las Vegas when I was a head scientist testing atomic bombs in Nevada is now widowed with 6 grandchildren just like I am, but I have 4 great grandchildren, and both of us are VERY LONELY, so together we leave for 4-6 weeks in my van with my electric scooter TOURING the sites of 6 southern states. We might even buy a home in Williamsburg, and then “YOU ARE RID OF ME”. What will OCTOGENARIANS like me do next?

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