July 2003

George Imirie’s PINK PAGES


I am “MAD as hell” with many of you, in fact MOST of you. UNlike politicians, which I intensely DISLIKE, I call a “spade” a “spade”, and not an “agricultural instrument”. In other words, I speak rather bluntly, and hence confuse no one. I don’t win any popularity contests, just those based on ability which suits me fine. WHY AM I MAD?

I have always tried to arrange INFORMATIVE monthly meetings for the Montgomery County members to improve your knowledge of proper beekeeping. At NO cost to you and none of your dues money is spent to secure MASTER BEEKEEPERS, some of which drive over 100 miles to the Brookside Nature Center meetings, bee RESEARCHERS, bee SCIENTISTS who bring their own equipment for demonstrations, their own slides to show you, but most important they bring you KNOWLEDGE AND PROVEN EXPERTISE at no cost to you, AND YOU DON’T ATTEND! This has happened twice in this month. On June 11th, Master Beekeeper Steve McDaniel drove from his home near the Maryland-Pennsylvania line to Wheaton to dispense his KNOWLEDGE and aside from other Master Beekeepers and Virginia guests, there were less than a dozen Montgomery County members present out of almost 150 members. Master Beekeepers Bill and Nancy Troup had driven 70 miles from their home to fill-in for Steve in case he was delayed, BUT YOU WERE TO LAZY TO ATTEND! The real payoff was on Friday and Saturday, June 20-21, at the Joint meeting of the Maryland-Virginia Beekeepers at Manassas, just a 45 minute drive from Rockville. Here, there were FIVE expert honey bee RESEARCHERS holding Ph.D’s in Entomology who gave talks on why there a few GOOD queens and a lot of BAD queens and what action you can take to get better queens, how to PROPERLY inspect a colony, WHAT serious diseases there are and how you can identify them and TREAT them, how to prevent SWARMING, HOW and WHEN and with WHAT is best to medicate your bees against diseases and predators, and all kinds of time for you to ask personal questions. Except for the FIVE Master Beekeepers present, I saw just ONE Montgomery County member. This is DISGRACEFUL! You were either too CHEAP to come, too LAZY, or don’t give a damn about your bees; and I don’t consider myself a totalitarian, but if you are too busy with other things in your life that you can’t afford a few bucks and a few hours to gain more knowledge about your bees, then I suggest you get rid of them and take up some more mundane hobby like raising pigeons or catching butterflies or collecting stamps. You can’t grow a good garden without watering it, hoeing out the weeds, and killing the fruit diseases. In other words, do a little work, and good beekeeping requires the same effort – a little work and lots of KNOWLEDGE.

Now you know why I am boiling MAD; and I don’t really give a damn if you don’t like my “reading you off”. If the shoe fits, wear it! Some of us give our TIME, our MONEY, our KNOWLEDGE to the membership FREE OF CHARGE asking only that you attend meetings to LEARN to be a beeKEEPER rather than just a beeHAVER that anybody can do by buying a $40 package of bees and HOPE that nature does all the rest. THOSE DAYS NEVER EXISTED, but beekeeping has been made much more difficult today because of the mites, so one HAS TO LEARN to be successful.

Going further while I am still boiling MAD: When all this FREE advice is offered to you by EXPERTS, NOTABLE bee scientists, bee researchers, and Certified Master Beekeepers, why is it you accept the advice of some old codger who proclaims his expertise, but has to buy new bees every year or so, or someone who is still trying to keep bees “like Daddy kept bees” when it has been dramatically proven that successful beekeeping is far different now than it was prior to the introduction of mites in the U.S. in 1984 and 1987, just 19 years ago. Why does one read beekeeping books, and swear by them, that were written prior to the arrival of mites? Isn’t that like reading how to repair the brakes on your 2002 Chevrolet by reading a Chevrolet book written in 1980? Why do you buy queens or package bees from some queen “producer” rather than a queen “breeder”, just because they are $5 cheaper? Do you ask your queen producer if he is breeding the new “hygienic” bee, and if not, why don’t you switch suppliers? When almost EVERY commercial beekeeper nationwide is now requeening EVERY year, almost all bee scientists and researchers are requeening EVERY year, when most Master Beekeepers are requeening EVERY year, and NONE OF THE ABOVE are allowing their bees to requeen themselves, WHY DON’T YOU REQUEEN EVERY YEAR? You say that a new queen costs $15 and it is extra work to requeen, so you don’t requeen, and your bees SWARM and you lost your honey crop. Whose fault is that? Researchers and honey bee scientists have worked long and hard to determine the best TIME or TIMES of the year to kill mites and have disseminated this information in writing, in speeches at beekeeper meetings, in written instructions accompanying the treatment material, but YOU ignore these stated TIMES and treat when it is MOST CONVENIENT TO YOU, and your bees die or are so unhealthy that they can’t get through the winter; and YOU blame it on a cold winter. Dr. Southwick placed colonies of bees in refrigerated cold chambers for 30 days at temperatures as low as -80°, yes, I said 80 below, and healthy bees survived easily. COLD WEATHER DOES NOT KILL HEALTHY BEES; and attendance at meetings would have explained that to you. Now let’s talk about FEEDING, and even State Apiarist Jerry Fischer or former State Apiarist Bart Smith will tell you that more of YOUR bees died from STARVATION than all other reasons!. Starvation is NOT necessarily caused by lack of honey or sugar syrup in the colony, but more often is caused by WHERE IN THE COLONY IS THAT FOOD STORED; the problem was generally CAUSED BY YOU by not feeding at the CORRECT time, by using feeders out of the reach of the bees, or YOU moving the frames of honey that the bees had positioned for the winter. YES, it was YOUR fault again, because you did not ATTEND meetings that could have demonstrated proper winter FEEDING. By the way, the 2003 honey crop in most of central Maryland was NONEXISTENT, and your bees should be getting fed NOW, in July and August, for bees to properly ripen that feed and PROPERLY store it. Feeding in September and October will be too late, and your bees might not make it through the winter. If you think I am wrong, you ask other MASTER BEEKEEPERS, bee researchers or bee scientists, and NOT your good buddy, jim, bill, harry, or Susie in your local neighborhood who have had bees for 10-20 years. Jerry Fischers report NEXT SPRING about bee death this coming winter will be most interesting to ME, because my bees don’t die in the winter. PLEASE TAKE MY ADVICE, AND CHECK OUT MY FEELINGS WITH SOME OTHER MASTER BEEKEEPERS, OR BELTSVILLE SCIENTISTS. Bees will NOT leave a cluster and move 6 inches to a “division board feeder” filled with delicious sugar syrup, or go up to a “super-like” hive top feeder when the temperature is below about 40°. After all, bees began to cluster when the temperature drops to 50°, because they don’t have a furnace like we do.

I am really going to “test” you regarding whether you really want to acquire true knowledge about PROPER AND SUCCESSFUL beeKEEPING, or whether just being a beeHAVER is good enough for you. HOW? On our regular 2nd Wednesday night of SEPTEMBER 10th, I have asked Dr. Jeff Pettis, a foremost Beltsville Lab honey bee researcher and entomologist to be our speaker regarding many of the subjects I have mentioned above. He might talk for 2 hours interrupted by some cookies and drinks, answer your questions including that one about “Does George really know what he is talking about?”, and then hope that you can become a better beekeeper; so you better be present.

I can NOT forget the EAS meeting in Maine on August 4th – 8th. I did not miss a meeting for over 20 years until 2 years ago when the EAS date conflicted with our Montgomery County FAIR date. EAS is a WONDERFUL learning experience about apis mellifera and every beekeeper should go. In 2004, it will be in Pennsylvania.

Speaking of our Montgomery County FAIR, you can “get back in my good graces” by VOLUNTEERING (don’t wait to be ASKED) to spend as little as 4 hours in our MCBA booth directed by Master Beekeeper Barry Thompson talking to the PUBLIC about the importance of honey bee POLLINATION of fruits and veggies to the HUMAN FOOD SUPPLY. Most of the ADULT PUBLIC today has seen to many Hollywoodized movies about “killer bees” and are very frightened at the thought of a bee sting. Just a bunch of LIES, but a sensational way for Hollywood to make money. YOU ARE NEEDED to be in our booth for 4 hours to talk to the public, explain an OBSERVATION HIVE, and answer simple questions like “how many bees are in a hive? Is there only ONE queen? How many eggs does she lay’ in a day? How long do bees live? Is honey as sweet as sugar? Is dark honey OLD honey? How does George, up in that bee cage, handle all those bees without being stung, but he has no veil and only wears a tee-shirt? Is it true that extremely few people are really allergic to bee stings? How much honey can one hive of bees make in a year? Do bees hibernate in the winter like bears? ANY ONE OF YOU CAN ANSWER THESE SIMPLE QUESTIONS, or do you want the voters in Montgomery county to OUTLAW beekeeping here? BeeKEEPING needs HELP, and it is your RESPONSIBILITY to come to its aid, and NOT after the “horse has left the barn”! VOLUNTEER FOR JUST 4 HOURS TO BARRY AT 301 947-4652, AND ENJOY A FREE LUNCH OR DINNER, COMPLIMENTS OF THE FAIR

Lastly, some of we MASTER BEEKEEPERS attend the yearly meeting of the American Beekeeping Federation, which is predominantly commercial beekeepers from every state in the union, but also has a hobbyist division. The next meeting will be during the second week in January in Jacksonville, FL. For all you people, who want to experience the warmth of Florida just after Christmas, come to the ABF meeting and I will introduce you to the largest commercial beekeepers in the country and you can ask them about the importance of annual requeening, diseases, mite problems, the “best” bee, who has more than 10,000 colonies, and any question you want. COME ON DOWN WITH ME, and LEARN, LEARN, LEARN.

Ending: (Aren’t you GLAD?)

  1. Am I smarter than you? I doubt it.
  2. Is your health better than mine? I am almost positive your health is better than mine, because I have become disabled from 5 different strokes during the past 13 years, but I am still attending meetings to try to learn more about bees.
  3. Have I kept bees longer than you? Yes, unless you started more than 71 yeas ago, when I installed my first package in June 1933, just 90 days after Franklin Delano Roosevelt was inaugurated President of the U.S.
  4. Was your mentor more knowledgeable than mine? Maybe, who knows. Mine was Dr. James I. Hambleton, Chief Apiarist of the U. S. Government from 1922-66.
  5. Does years of experience make one more knowledgeable about beekeeping? NO! Only reading, attending meetings, studying, and LEARNING improves your knowledge.
  6. Is SUCCESSFUL beekeeping more difficult today than 20 years ago? You BETCHA! The arrival of mites in 1984 and 1987 changed everything and today, one must follow the findings of bee scientists and researchers during these past 19 years to be successful.
  7. Can a hobbyist make a profit in beekeeping? Yes, if he is willing to work for a salary of a penny per hour.
  8. Is there any FUN or JOY in beekeeping today? If your hive management prevents colony death, produce lots of honey almost every year, enjoy helping beginning beekeepers, win some show ribbons at the fair, love to sit near the hive and observe the functions of various bees there, thrill at watching the queen lay eggs as you hold the frame close to your face or watch a new worker struggle to emerge from her pupal cell, enjoy sampling and trying to identify the many different honeys, you are thrilled with your fine knowledge of successful beekeeping but crave more knowledge, THEN, YOU HAVE FOUND THE FUN AND JOY OF BEEKEEPING

Albert Einstein was not a nuclear scientist like me, but he was a brilliant scientist about many things. Before his death, he wrote: “If honey bees become extinct, the human race will become extinct from hunger four years later.” Can you say that he was crazy? He gave us “e=mc squared” in 1905; and 40 years later we, atomic scientists, produced atomic bombs.


Do I want to lose you as a member of MCBA? Of course not! But I am not satisfied with anyone who has no interest in improving their knowledge. All things must improve as life goes on, and just standing still is not good enough, so one just dies.

George Imirie
Certified EAS Master Beekeeper

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