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July, 2001


This was a quote from an address made by Dr. Dewey Caron at a MAAREC Short Course last week that said in three short words what it takes me pages to say! Wow, I was impressed! Do you understand this saying, or need some help?

I am reminded of the difference in raising Carniolans from any other race of bees. If you don't ANTICIPATE a happening and prepare for it ahead of time, the bees have left in a swarm; and then REACTION is of little value. In the past, various slogans have been worked to death like: Closing the barn door after the horse is gone. Crying over spilt milk. and Planning Ahea........d. Every day, we see victims of REACTION to some event in life when we witness a driver trying to hook up his auto seat belt as the cop approaches the car door, or a young unmarried girl with a guilty look approaching an abortion clinic door, or the person ambulanced to the Salisbury Hospital because he forgot his sun screen lotion when he sun bathed all day at Ocean City. All of these events could have been easily prevented if one had paid attention to ANTICIPATION.

What has this got to do with beekeeping in July? Everything! Planning ahead what SHOULD be done during the remainder of this year, what might be done to improve your beekeeping next year, and what can be done to improve your knowledge about bees, so that your bees don't die unexpectedly or depart in a swarm or fail to make a good honey crop or sting you and your neighbors or become work rather than fun. Enjoying your work with bees should be like visiting a museum to see how fortunate you are not to have to live under the conditions of the past. LEARNING is that wonderful experience that allows you to see a rainbow after every storm, and hence the yearning to LEARN more.

Although invisible to the human eye, the tracheal mite is still here and still killing colonies generally in December or January. In ANTICIPATION of this death, some believe caused by the cold, one can eliminate the REACTION of becoming MAD and making excuses for your loss of bees simply by treating with MENTHOL on the 1 5th of August in Central Maryland! MENTHOL is a wonderful, highly successful KILLER of tracheal mites, BUT IT MUST BE USED IN HOT WEATHER, and will not normally work if installed after Sept. 1st! If you don't want to use it, because you still have supers on trying to collect some of that undependable, quickly crystallizing fall honey, go right ahead, but start saving money to buy a new package of bees to replace the dead colony that died of invisible tracheal mites. By the way, the tracheal mite is not invisible to some of us who have learned how to dissect a bee, pull out the trachea, go to the local high school, give the science teacher a jar of your honey, and see the tracheal mites with the high school's microscope. You don't have to be an astronaut or atomic scientist to learn this simple procedure so that you, too, can see tracheal mites in your own bees. Just attend some short courses, EAS meetings, ask a MASTER BEEKEEPER for instructions, rather than attending a local "pot belly stove meeting" of beeHAVERS telling tall tales and finding fault with every new idea that has come down the road. Back to ANTICIPATION: Without some treatment for tracheal mites; either labor intensive 6 months of continual application of grease patties, the use of formic acid (if Betterbee ever gets a suitable delivery system solved), or the sure fire use of MENTHOL if installed in August; your bees will suffer the REACTION of death by tracheal mite infection. Don't say that I did not warn you in advance.

If you want an explanation of WHY menthol has to be used in "hot" weather, here it is. The fumes of menthol have to get inside the "lungs" of the bee to kill the tracheal mites in the trachea of the bee. Menthol sublimes (converts from solid form into gaseous form without becoming a liquid) at a temperature of 84° and the menthol gas fumes should be present for at least 3 weeks to kill all tracheal mites. In our Central Maryland area, there are not too many days in September where the temperature stays above 84° for any length of time, so menthol should be used in the heat of August. Bees don't have "lungs", but I used the word to help you understand.

Next on the list of things to be done is REQUEENING on September 1st; and I strongly suggest that you use "Imirie's Almost Foolproof Requeening Method" ( a copy is attached) rather than "screw it up" and lose a queen and maybe the whole colony. I don't care what bee scientist or bee researcher you hear, the great majority NOW suggest ANNUAL REQUEENING is the preferred schedule rather than every other year. I believe that this shift in thinking is primarily due to understanding of the importance of the young queen's increased amount of queen pheromone that prevents or lessens swarming.

One of the now deceased Dr. Roger Morse's great innovations was naming the month of September as the honey bee's NEW YEAR, because that is the time that one should make all his plans for the ensuing next year of number of colonies of LIVE, HEALTHY bees making large crops of honey that can be sold for high profit as well as win blue ribbons at county fairs. I heartily endorse Dr. Morse's thinking AHEAD; and thinking AHEAD leads me to WHEN to get the greatest killing of the deadly Varroa mites.

Bee scientists have clearly shown that all Varroa mites are "born" in a honey bee cell with a bee larva and feeds off of that honey bee pupa while both the bee and the mite develop to adulthood. An adult female Varroa mite enters a honey bee cell when the bee larva is 4 days old and the cell is just one day from being capped; and the female mite lays mite eggs here after the capping of the cell. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to understand that if there are few or no honey bee larvae present in a colony, then there is no place for the female Varroa mite to lay eggs to produce more mites. Obviously then, a good time to kill all mites and not have any "baby" mites to replace the old adults would be that time when there is no honey bee larvae. Although local area may be slightly different and the race of bees is different, queen bees generally dramatically slow down their laying of bee eggs in September and usually totally stop in November. Taking advantage of everything that Mother Nature has to offer, for many years I have installed my Apistan strips on October 1st (NEVER in September) and removed them the first warm day, 50°, after November 15th. (It is amazing the number of people that are afraid to open a colony for 1 minute to snatch out 4 strips of Apistan when it is 50°, a colony with no brood to chill. Probably just a feeble excuse of not wanting to fool with bees after warm weather). When I perform my sticky board tests for Varroa mites on April 1st, I almost always have NONE, and when I test again on July 1st, I don't have near enough to be alarmed. Hence, by installing Apistan strips on Oct. 1st and removing them after November 15th, but definitely before December 1st, I have been successful at treating only once each year and have never lost a colony to Varroa mite infection. You too can ANTICIPATE and succeed rather than having a REACTION to the death of a colony by Varroa mites.

As you know, I have suggested a fall treatment for Nosema disease ad nauseum in my many writings stating that bee scientists estimate that 60% of ALL bee colonies have some Nosema disease, but it is rarely treated simply because ilk rarely kills a colony. It is so simple and cheap to feed a colony a teaspoon of Fumidil-B, cost of about $2.00, in a gallon of 2:1 sugar syrup in October and November. At the recent MAAREC short course, which was absolutely wonderful and I am still LEARNING after 69 years of beekeeping, recently retired Dr. Shimanuki declared that he thought Nosema was a greater problem for beekeeping success than American Foul Brood! Wow, that made audience stop and think, and Shim when into great detail for his reasoning. Do you have to hear it from Shim, or take it from me to ANTICIPATE that your colonies probably have some Nosema disease and treat for it in advance in October and November rather than have a REACTION to a lowered honey yield or a poorly populated colony due to sickness from Nosema? My mother gave me Cod Liver Oil before there were Vitamin tablets and I got Dr. Salk's Polio vaccine in the 1950's; and I am going to provide the scientist's suggestions for my bees to keep them healthy.

Due to the deaths of so many bee colonies this past year, the package bee providers and queen bee breeders were swamped with late orders for bees and queens, and they just could not provide bees on time or at all. BeeHAVERS and beeKEEPERS bitched and complained to no avail, and many in Maryland just did not get bees in time to get a honey crop or start splits. This same thing is going to CONTINUE because so many people simply refuse to accept advice, so if you don't want to be caught without bees or queens next spring, make your plans this fall and ORDER EARLY like December or January. I'll bet that I have just wasted words and printer's ink by saying that.

BTW, research and much testing has proven that HEALTHY honey bees DON'T die from COLD. Bees have been subjected to temperatures of -40°, -60°, and even -80° for periods up to a month, and survived in GREAT SHAPE. Bees that are sick or infected with pests might die in warm temperatures much less cold temperatures, so it is YOUR job to see that your bees are not sick or pest infected. Bees are damaged in the winter by cold winds that destroy their cluster heat, and particularly by dampness. Hence make sure that your colonies are protected from cold northerly winds in the winter and SURELY have an UPPER ENTRANCE in the colony to let the dampness of expelled bee breath escape from the hive. For many of you doubters regarding bee warmth in cold weather, you are about to see more and more bee hives having only 8 mesh wire screen bottom boards in the winter replacing the standard wooden bottom board. ANTICIPATE now that winter is coming, and prepare against its ravishes rather than having a dead colony and blaming it on the cold winter.

ANTICIPATE learning all kinds of things about beekeeping that you did not know like meeting and talking to people who have 10,000 colonies of bees, queen breeders who sell 10,000 queens each year, honey packers that package 10 or 20 million pounds of honey each year, visiting a queen breeders facilities and observing how queens are bred, and enjoying the history and sights of the OLD SOUTH. You can do this and get out of the doldrums of winter and the Christmas shock of shopping by joining me at the annual meeting of the American Beekeeping Federation in mid January, 2002 at the jewel of southern cities, SAVANNAH, GEORGIA. Savannah i%just a short 568 miles straight down 1-95 from Washington, DC.; but I won't go on my electric scooter because it won't go 65 mph and my fancy honey bee "windsock" might blow away. However, I'll be there if I am still alive, because the "big bosses" say they have several jobs for me like directing people to Charleston to visit Ft. Sumter and my old pre-Pearl Harbor school of The Citadel, carrying people to Wilbanks Apiaries to steal a queen bee, touring the Savannah River Atomic Plant using one of my old passes, or walking visitor's dogs because I walk very slowly.

Note that I did not mention our 9 day Montgomery County Fair, the largest agricultural fair east of the Mississippi, because I ANTICIPATE you will be there to enter your honey to win ribbons, to work 4 hours at Old MacDonalds Barn in our Display booth to talk to the public about the value of honey bee pollination for human food and to tell the kids all about the happenings in the observation hive as well as the wall charts and pictures, and lastly to direct the public to watch Old George open up hives of bees in a screened cage, find the queen, and show all the insides of a hive to the crowd while OLD George does this in shorts, tee-shirt and NO VEIL 4 times every day in spite of being disabled by strokes. Hopefully, your REACTION to all of this will be "I have done my volunteer service in behalf of protecting honey bees and informing the public of the wonderments of our little critter; and I have had a wonderful LEARNING experience myself".

Sine Die

George W. Imirie EAS Certified Master Beekeeper


Select an exact date for your new queen to arrive and make it known to your queen breeder, and get a MARKED QUEEN. TEN days before the new queen is to arrive, insert queen excluders in between any two boxes where your old queen can go. When your new queen arrives, water her and store her in a cool dark place until needed. Gather up a double screen board, an empty hive body, 10 drawn combs, and a feeder with a gallon of 1:1 sugar syrup. Find the OLD queen (which ever brood box has larva is where the queen will be found) in the colony you want to requeen. Set her ASIDE away from the colony, so that you free to manipulate all the other frames in the colony. Select 3 frames of brood: 1 capped and 2 of eggs and larva, all with the covering nurse bees. Place these in the center of the empty hive body. Now add 6 mire frames, as follows: 2 empty drawn comb, (one on each side of the brood frames), 2 frames of pollen and honey, (one on each side of the drawn comb), then 2 more empty drawn comb, (one on each side of the honey-pollen frames). This totals 9 frames leaving space for the queen cage. Now take several frames of brood ...remaining in the old colony...and shake the nurse bees into the new 9 frame nuc. Cover the nuc and set it aside for a while. Return the frame with the OLD queen to her home hive and replace the 5 frames you removed (3 of brood + 2 of honey-pollen) with empty drawn frames Now put the double screen board on top of the old colony so that its entrance faces to the rear of the parent colony. Set the new 9 frame nuc on top and install the new queen (make sure you remove the cork from the candy end). Start feeding the new nuc immediately. After about 3-5 days, check the queen cage very quickly using little or no smoke to see if the queen has been released. If she has not, you release her from the cage. Do NOT disturb for another 5-7 days and then check with as little disturbance and smoke as possible looking for eggs and larva. Add the 10th frame and remove the queen cage. During the next few weeks (I like about 5-6) check the brood pattern of the new queen. If you like it and want to accept that new queen, find the old queen down below the double screen, kill her, and remove the double screen board. This method has a couple of advantages: 1) if something is wrong with the new queen, you kill her and the colony has a backup with the old queen; and you requeen the colony at a later date, and 2) for about 5-6 weeks, you have 2 queens laying eggs that increase the number of bees which will make the hive stronger for winter and reduce the stresses of Winter.

Note: If you don't have a Double Screen Board - You should. If you are not sure how it is made, imagine a wooden queen excluder frame without the metal wires, covered on both sides by 8 mesh wire - A DOUBLE SCREEN BOARD. Brushy Mountain Bee Farm in North Carolina makes and sells a fancy, very, nice one.