September 2003


The Good, the Bad, the Nasty, and ME!

WHAT am I trying to say? It is mid August, the 9 day Montgomery County FAIR is over. What a Wonderful FAIR (good), Barry Thompson driving 12 hours back from a poorly attended EAS meeting in Maine designed and built a SPECTACULAR display about honey bees in Old MacDonald’s Barn and “staffed” it with many folks from MCBA who did a fine job all week (good). The honey SHOW up in Building 2 was something to be proud of. Although the number of entries was down (bad), the exhibits were some of the best I have seen in many years (good), and guess WHO really EXCELLED and won a ton of ribbons – our MCBA short course students over the past 3 years (good). I AM DELIGHTED! However, where was your entry? (bad) Are you that LAZY or that SHY? (Yes, I am NASTY to say that, but I am trying so hard to help you find the ‘Joys of Beekeeping’). As for myself, I put on three demonstrations for 9 days, missing EAS, and had extremely large audiences, even 100+ (good), who diligently sat and listened to this OLD man with a badly disabled voice (bad) talking about the importance of honey bee POLLINATION of food for humans (good) and intently watching this disabled OLD man with NO protective clothes and bees crawling on his fingers, arms, face, neck, and of course his pant leg (good, bad, and just ME). All I was trying to prove is that honey bees are NOT aggressive, but only defensive just as the great majority of Americans practice. It was a GREAT FAIR! If you were NOT there, it is YOUR loss. You SHOULD HAVE BEEN, hopefully next year.

When one has kept bees for 71 years as I have, you know a lot of beeKEEPERS and a host of beeHAVERS; and each comes to you and relates some story of disaster about their loss of hives (bad), or a story about their success in increasing their colony numbers and NO losses over the last year (good). It is so sad when I hear all these “excuses” about the death of their bees and listen to their recitation of “the cold winter”, the”bad queen”, the “drought”, the “mite problem”, and a thousand other meaningless excuses (bad); when the TRUTH is, in most cases, that the beeHAVER or lousy beeKEEPER did not pay as much attention to his bees as he paid to the long range weather forecast for his vacation, and the bees WOULD HAVE TO TAKE CARE OF THEMSELVES. (I know not whether this is GOOD, BAD, or SAD, but all can say it is NASTY ME) In the past month, I received a long passionate letter from the President of another local Maryland bee association “scolding” me and “giving me hell” for my NASTY July letter about poor attendance at bee meetings, and suggesting that “I lightened up” on my association members and talk about “fun” with bees, and asking me to REPLY to his criticism. I cannot be bothered by one person’s opinion, as I am much more interested in producing beeKEEPERS out of beeHAVERS for TWO reasons: so that my “students” find the real JOYS OF BEEKEEPING, and our bees stay alive to pollinate 35% of the food that we humans eat. Hence, I will not “LIGHTEN UP” in my chastisement of lazy beeHAVERS, including the condemning association president (Maybe OLD, blind in an eye, disabled in voice and walking, but I stand tall, because I am ME.). When one is born blind in one eye as I was, one learns never to START a fight, but, equally, NEVER WALK AWAY from one, if success and/or respect is sought in your life.

The “hunk” with all this garbage, let me talk about IMPORTANT stuff – the life of your bees. September is a VERY IMPORTANT MONTH for successful beekeeping in the ensuing year! WHAT are these important things? In our Maryland -Virginia, Menthol must be installed before LABOR DAY to be effective in killing tracheal mites, and tracheal mites are here whether you believe that or not. All spring and summer, I heard story after story about colonies dying in January showing only a hand full of dead bees but 40-50 pounds of honey stores still in the hive. These are the CLASSIC evidence of the infection by the microscopic INVISIBLE tracheal mite that kills the bee by suffocation (a nasty way to die) Late August and early September is the best time to REQUEEN a colony, but I will admit that most requeening is done in the spring. By having TWO queens (both the old and the new) laying eggs in the colony for about 30 days in September and early October, my I colonies get a major thrust of young bees to warm large areas of brood rearing in February to render large populations of forager bees in our April and May nectar flows. September is the ideal time to combine 2 weak colonies into a single colony to provide it with strength to get it through the winter and be strong for the spring nectar flows. Colonies with small populations in September never acquire honey production size population strength until about June, when our Montgomery County nectar flow is essentially over (done) for the rest of the year. So many people just don’t believe that 90% of all the honey made in our area (and in most of Maryland-Virginia) is made before June 15th, so your bees should be strong by April 1st if you are to get a good yield; and that program depends a lot on just what you do with your bees in SEPTEMBER.

It is going to be very interesting to hear the report of the Maryland Chief Bee Inspector, Jerry Fischer when he makes his report of about the CONDITIONS OF BEES at the beginning of the year 2004. I know that many colonies already have STARVED to death, absconded in June or July, or presently in very poor condition due to LACK of honey stores. All over our region, the incessant rains or volumes of snow in February, March, April was OK, but tons of rain in May and June kept bees in their colonies, so honey production was EXTREMELY poor. Bees MUST BE FED STRONGLY if they are to get through the coming winter, and NEVER count on a goldenrod harvest! Bees CAN’T store honey on frames of foundation, nor can bees get to Boardman feeders or hive-top super type feeders when the outside temperature gets under 50° (I said 50°, NOT 32°). SEPTEMBER is a FAR BETTER time to feed than October or November. You can start feeding 1:1 sugar syrup to encourage egg laying by the queen in September, and then switch the feed to 2:1 sugar syrup on October 1st for winter stores. A colony should have a MINIMUM of 10 deep frames, or 15 medium 6″ 5/8 frames, totally filled with capped honey by November to be adequately prepared for winter. Lastly, protect your bees from the Nosema disease, by feeding them about $2 worth of Fumadil-B, and DON’T install Apistan strips in September for Varroa mite control, but wait until October 1st when queens have almost stopped laying eggs, to install them, but POSITIVELY REMOVE them by November 30th.

Just because summer is over, the FAIR is over, EAS is over, it does not mean that your work is over to guarantee the survival of your bees for next spring, and I AM STILL ALIVE to help you, so why not think about and DO what I have just written; and I wish you SUCCESS.

George Imirie, a Proud Master Beekeeper


All of you know of my wife’s death of pancreatic cancer in December after over 59 years of marriage, and many of you honored my grief by coming to the funeral home or sending me a sympathy card or letter, not to mention the financial gifts to the EAS Honey Bee Research Fund or to the Montgomery County Hospice Society.. So humbly, I appreciate everyone’s concern; and I THANK YOU.

However, in 1955 when I was a head scientist testing atomic weapons at the Mercury Test Site in Nevada, a young 24 year old Mormon girl, engaged to be married shortly, was detailed to me as a special telephone operator for my numerous calls to the Atomic Energy Commission in DC. I had been married 12 years, and fathered two sons, and she talked with my wife on the phone while awaiting for me to get to the phone. During our 4 months testing program, I accompanied her to Las Vegas in her new 1955 Ford car as her companion and protector. A month after I left Nevada to return to Maryland, she married her Mormon fiance, Bobby G. Laub. I never talked to her or heard from her again, but 36 years later, I tested a Nevada commercial beekeeper for certification as an EAS Master Beekeeper. He was too was a Mormon, and when we both were elected to serve on the National Honey Board, I told him of my knowledge about the Mormon faith from my experience with MarJeanne McMullin Laub, because I had attended church with her and she had attended Presbyterian church with me. Four months after the death of my wife, the Nevada beekeeper e-mailed me and told me that a Mormon Newsletter reported the death of a Bobby G. Laub in Las Vegas, and could that be the husband of MarJeanne McMullin? I contacted the St. George, Utah Chamber of Commerce seeking information and MarJeanne’s nephew confirmed the death of Bobby Laub, told me of MarJeanne’s huge expensive home with swimming pool in Las Vegas and living there ALONE, but having 3 children and 6 grandchildren nearby in Las Vegas. I telephoned her, and she recognized my voice instantly after 48 years. In June, she flew here to visit me and stay with me in my Williamsburg, VA “home” for 3 weeks. Although I am 8 years older and have 4 GREAT grandchildren compared to her 6 grandchildren, we are both SO LONELY after the deaths of our spouses, the two of us are like “kids with a new toy”. I will return from three weeks in Las Vegas just 24 hours before the September 10th meeting with Dr. Jeff Pettis. Hence, if I can give up an extended sojourn with my “old” Las Vegas Mormon “companion”, I have high hopes that you too can come and enjoy Jeff’s wisdom.


Mailed to you from Las Vegas, Nevada

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