HEALTHY BEES OR SICK BEES IN THE COMING SPRING?
entire month of August was spent at the annual Eastern Apicultural Society (EAS)
meeting, and my own 9 day long Montgomery County Agricultural Fair, during which
my basic "job" was teaching
I never cease to be amazed at how little many people know of the CHANGES in
programs that confront them almost daily;and choose to either ignore up-to-date
scientific suggested advice, go ask old retired "Uncle Ben" for his suggestion
of a solution, or just ignore the problem and
hope it does
not repeat itself. Such is the case about the treatment of the tracheal
mite and the Varroa
mite, BOTH of which are still highly prevalent among all the bees in
the United States,
whether Montgomery County, Maryland, Alabama, New York, Texas, or Alaska.
Then, there are
always those that are too "stingy" to spend any money to protect the lives of
their bees, and there are those that don't want to put any "chemicals" in their
hives; so they either DON'T TREAT their bees at all, or treat with so-called
NON-CHEMICALS like FGMO (food grade mineral oil) or "essential oils" like wintergreen,
thymol, cinnamon, peppermint, or a dozen others even including Halls Mentholated
Cough Drops. Pray tell, aren't these products CHEMICALS?
There seems to be a feeling
that if a product such as FGMO or peppermint is OK for humans, than it must
be OK for bees; but
do these products kill or control the mites is the question of importance?
Yet, I will wager that
these same people take aspirin or Tylenol for headaches, Pepto-Bismol for an
upset stomach, Imodium for diarrhea, many different antibiotics for various
infections, and even nitroglycerine pills for certain heart problems. By the
way, none of these everyday used drugs were "discovered" by "Uncle Ben" or "Aunt
Sadie", but were produced by research scientists who were paid to find and develop
products suitable for overcoming human health problems.
Who are these research
scientists and who pays them to delve into the ways of destroying the predators,
sicknesses, or pests of our
apis mellifera , and
without harm to our bees or adulteration of the honey they produce? Since the
beginning of time, few research scientists have done their job for a financial
return, but rather they have done it to answer the age old questions of: What
is on the 'other side'? How high is 'up'? What is 'atomic energy', and how can
it be controlled and used? What is 'gravity', and how does it effect the fall
of a feather versus a paper-clip in a vacuum? Research oriented people are naturally
curious about everything and anything just to "see what is on the other
side of the hill". The Federal Government has 5 Bee Research Laboratories each
staffed with numerous Ph.D. scientists in the fields of entomology, chemistry,
biochemistry, micro-physics, and other scientific specialties. Most states have
similar scientists engaged in honey bee research on the problems of the honey
bee in their area (after all, Maine or Minnesota have problems with cold weather
that Florida or Texas never experience; and 5 Southwest states have the Africanized
honey bee that has not yet entered our other 45 states). Let us never forget
the Universities spread over the entire
country that have students doing guided research about honey bee problems to
enable them to secure
a Ph.D. in one of the sciences. I am quickly reminded of Diana Sammataro
who gained her Ph. D. in entomology by research on the effect of grease patties
on the tracheal mite;
and I am watching our own Montgomery County Alexis Park studying under
Dr. Dewey Caron at the University of Delaware. Lastly, there are a few chemical
for chemicals to use in treatments for honey bee problems; but these
companies are few and far between simply because the treatment of honey bees
does not offer enough
profit to justify expensive research. Sadly, because of a few "self
appointed 'doctors' of honey bee diseases", who refused to follow written directions
about the use of certain chemicals, notably MITICUR, as well as an effort to
do a treat ment FASTER
and CHEAPER, the manufacturer simply withdrew the product from market
and said "the hell with beekeepers". Just a few rotten apples can spoil a whole
If any of these non-approved
products, like wintergreen, FGMO,
or numerous others,
worked to control or kill the tracheal and Varroa mites, don't you think it
would have been loudly
announced and publicized by our trade journals, newspapers, honey producers,and
Our federal labs, notably
Beltsville, or state extension. service scientists,and
our many university labs have all tested and "played with" these non-approved
treatment products over the past 16 years, and to-date, none of these suggested
products have been
scientifically proved successful for use in control of our honey bee mite
As a scientist myself,
although long retired, if I or members of my family are
exposed to a life threatening pest or disease, I am going the seek advice from
the medical profession
and do as they say, and IGNORE the comments or suggestions of my non-medical
friends, my auto
repairman, my friendly butcher, my Uncle Ben or Aunt Sadie or even mypastor.
I want to listen to that
segment of people who have spent their lives working as
scientists to find the proper treatment to restore my health, irrespective of
my relationship with
Off the subject a bit,
but a little levity is good for us:While
at EAS, an out of state attendee said to a friend of mine: I have been told
that George Imirie
has been hospitalized 5 times over the past decade with strokes; but he is
still here on his electric scooter teaching proper beeKEEPING. Why isn't he
DEAD? My friend replied:
beeHAVERS still need George, God is not sure just what to do with him,and
the Devil is afraid of George. Only you can decide who is correct; but meanwhile
will keep "preaching"
Some people seem to be
OVER concerned about the monetary cost of treating a colony for
mites, and that is like failing to buy new tires before starting your vacation
of traveling cross
country in your three year old car. The cost of a yearly dose of menthol to
KILL tracheal mites
is about $2.00 per colony, and the cost of 4 strips of Apistan to kill about
99% of the Varroa mites (if used at the RIGHT time) is about $8.00. If
you give a fall treatment of Fumidil B to control the ever present Nosema disease,
the cost is about $2.00 per colony.
Hence, the TOTAL yearly
costs of disease treatments using USDA APPROVED chemicals is only about
$12.00 per colony. Healthy bees produce honey and do not HAVE to be replaced.
Maybe your colony only produces a measly 50 pounds of honey, and you
"give-it-away" for $2.00 per pound, which equals a total of $100 and
bees are not only healthy and ready for next year, but you can split one colony
colonies or sell 4 frame "nucs" for $50 each, and STILL HAVE your bees.
Further, maybe you
or your neighbor is a vegetable gardener; and due to the absence of wild bees,
perhaps the garden
did not produce many vegetables like cantaloupe, watermelon, cucumbers,
broccoli, onions, apples, cherries and many other veggies and fruit,because
of the lack of plant pollination. How do you measure "this" in dollars and cents?
have often wondered if the average hobbyist beekeeper has ever thought of the
bee industry, where
these operators only income might be from the sale of bees which
certainly means that they dare not fail to PROPERLY medicate their bees against
things like mites,
and you can be assured that they don't use some "Uncle Ben" remedy, fail to
miss a treatment, treat on time with an approved chemical, and follow the directions
of the research scientists
that developed these approved chemicals. WHY DON'T YOU DO
there are always those people that want to "ring every drop of honey out of
a season", and keep
their supers in action continuously from April through September.
they treat their bees with approved chemicals like menthol and Apistan in late
September or next March. Their bees die or arrive in the spring sickly, and
these people have
nerve to declare that "I treated with menthol and Apistan and my
bees died, so menthol and Apistan are no damned good". It is hard to tell these
self appointed experts
that they did not treat at the specific time of year for their area that
the scientists recommended. One simply has to decide whether to treat at the
correct time and
lose some of the honey crop, or treat at a poor time of the year, make a few
extra pounds of honey, but your bees are either dead or sickly enough to have
a very poor spring
Beekeeper Tom Muncey, representing the State of Nevada, served
on the National Honey Board with me, and my talks with him revealed that the
of Nevada had clearly shown him to never gamble with treatment of bees, but
follow the approved treatment recommendations to the written letter.
total income is from
his commercial honey production in the Nevada area.
are the Suggested and Approved treatments for mites in our central Maryland
DC and Baltimore:
MITE: Apply 50 grams of menthol on top of brood chamber frames about
AUGUST 15th, but
before September 1
st. Solid menthol crystals sublime (turn to vapor
liquid) at a temperature of 84deg;, and it is this vapor that enters the
of the adult bee and KILLS the tracheal mites in the trachea of the bee.
are not many days of temperatures over 84 deg; after September 1st to permit
menthol to become
a gas and enter the "lungs" of the bee to kill tracheal mites.
infected with tracheal mites usually die of
strangulation (like emphysema in humans)
in midwinter: late December, January, or February and leave abundant quantities
of winter honey stores
in the colony. If you inspect a suspicious colony on a warm winter
day, and find a colony whose population has just dwindled away to a small group
of bees and queen
and there are plenty of honey stores still in the hive, this is a classic case
of death by tracheal
mite infestation. But don't GUESS at the cause of death, dissect some bees and
examine their tracheas under a microscope at your local high school lab, or
send a sample of the bees to Beltsville for tests.
In the spring of
2000, APICURE (formic acid) was APPROVED for treatment of
both tracheal and varroa mites, and Apicure can be used at temperatures
lower than 84deg; and will KILL about 100% of tracheal mites and perhaps 70%
of Varroa mites. Unfortunately, APICURE experienced some leaking package
problems and has been temporarily removed from the market until reliable packaging
methods are found.
you did NOT use menthol on time and you can still find some unsold packages
of APICURE, you can certainly use this in September and early October.
INTENSIVE, many use plain grease patties (2 parts of plain sugar mixed
withl part of Crisco) to
control (not kill) tracheal mite population so that they do not get strong
enough to kill a colony. Unfortunately, a plain grease pattie must be CONSTANTLY
present on the top of brood chamber frames from about July to December and this
requires many colony inspections of the brood chamber during these months to
make sure that a grease pattie is not used up. Dr. Diana Sammataro has well
proven that PLAIN grease patties (no Terramycin) constantly present in a colony
(even during a nectar flow) control the tracheal mite population so the bees
can stay alive and function, but this system has NOT been approved by the government
as a tracheal mite treatment because it does not KILL the mite, but just controls
When $2.00 of
APPROVED menthol used in August, or $2.00 of APPROVED APICURE (formic acid)
used in August, September, or early October, or $2.00 of grease patties used
CONTINUOUSLY from July to December will either KILL or control tracheal mites,
then you have NO EXCUSE to lose any bees from tracheal mites! Bee Research Scientists
have PROVED that treatments with any of the three products listed above WORK
to control or eliminate tracheal mite infestation
provided you follow the exact written directions, particularly the time to
be used, and the rest is up to you.
VARROA MITE: Research
has clearly shown that most of our, problems in treating Varroa mites with Apistan
result from the OVERUSE of Apistan thereby creating resistant mites, and the
use of Apistan at the WRONG time of year to effectively kill Varroa mites. Applying
Apistan strips in the fall and
just leavings them in the colony until springs or any time frame longer than
the suggested 6 weeks is just plain IRRESPONSIBLE and downright "illegal",
because this long term constant exposure of the mites to the effective chemical
in Apistan strips, fluvalinate, simply breeds mites resistant to death by Apistan
treatments. Maybe you travel our highways every day at 70 mph and just pay your
fines; so you "illegally" use Apistan strips and create resistant mites that
kill your bees, and you just buy more bees. Apiculture does not need people
like you, so get out!
It might surprise
you that TEMPERATURE plays a
very important role in the BEST time to use Apistan.
Varroa mites lay their eggs to produce more mites in just ONE place:the
open brood cell of a new honey bee on the day just before the cell is capped
to commence the pupal stage of the honey bee and reaching fruition 12 days later
when the new honey bee emerges.
this 12-13 day period, the female adult mite lays 2, 3, or even 4 baby mites
in this one bee cell; and these baby Varroa mites feed on the hemolymph
(blood) of the pupal bee
host and emerge from the cell with the new adult, but damaged, honey bee.
Note right here that just one new honey bee arrival might also present 2. 3.
or even 4 new Varroa mites to the colony, and it is extremely important that
you understand this population inequality so that you can PROPERLY treat
for Varroa mites.
there is NO honey bee brood in the hive, no new mites can be accumulated, because
the baby mites have no host to feed upon. What time of year is there little
or NO honey bee brood present in a colony? In Central Maryland, the worker bees
begin slowing the queen's egg laying about October 1 st and generally the queen
bee totally stops all egg laying about mid November. Hence, there is less and
less bee brood present in a colony beginning in early October and becoming zero
by about Thanksgiving Day.
PERIOD from October 1st to about November 1 5th is the IDEAL TIME to kill Varroa
mites, because precious few NEW mites can be raised in the absence of most honey
reason for exposing a colony to Apistan strips for 6 long weeks is to cover
both ends of two 21 day honey bee gestation periods where any new mite emerging
with a new honey bee is quickly killed by contact with the Apistan strip. Research
bee scientists have clearly shown and published papers that the best time to
use any Varroa mite killing agent is at the time of year where there is the
least honey bee brood; and if properly done, this ONE treatment will probably
be adequate for a whole gear. One fall treatment is usually adequate
for states in the north like New York or Michigan, sometimes two treatments
are required in our central states like North Carolina or Arkansas, and the
"tropical" areas of our southern states like Florida or Texas always have to
have two treatments or maybe even three.
Now, after reading
the explanation above, it should be easy for you to understand that Varroa mite
population INCREASES dramatically as honey bee production increases; and becomes
a severe infestation when the queen starts slowing her egg production in mid
the life expectancy of a Varroa mite is LONGER than the 42 day life expectancy
of our honey bees!
there is case after case on record of a colony producing a record crop of honey
which was is harvested by July 4th, and the colony suddenly DIES in August or
September. This is SO different than the tracheal mite, because the Varroa mite
population is totally dependent on an increasing honey bee brood population,
whereas the tracheal mite never is hosted by anything but ADULT honey bees.
In Central Maryland,
the BEST time or IDEAL time to treat Varroa mites with Apistan is to install
4 strips of Apistan in the colony brood chamber on October 1 st and remove
those strips on any warm
day (above 50°) after November 15th, but POSITIVELY REMOVE THEM so that
you don't create resistant mites.
YOUR TAX DOLLARS ARE BEING
SPENT BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND THE STATEGOVERNMENTS
TO EMPLOY HONEY BEE RESEARCH
SCIENTISTS TO STUDY AND SELECT THE BEST PRODUCTS, DOSE, AND TIME
OF USE TO DECREASE THE MITE POPULATION WITHOUT HURTING THE BEES OR HONEY!
Use their suggestions rather than be so damned STUBBORN like a spoiled child.
p.s. - My wife
proof read this article for me and objected to my language and "being so nasty".
My interest is SAVING OUR HONEY BEES SO THEIR DESCENDANTS WILL BE ALIVE TO POLLINATE
FOOD FOR MY HEIRS TO EAT, and if it takes this kind of strong writing to gain
the attention of poorly informed beekeepers, then I stand ready to accept your
criticism. SAVE YOUR BEES!
EAS Awards SURPRISE Unannounced
Plaque to George Imirie for
"his" PINK PAGES!
very last event of every EAS week-long annual gathering of LEARNING is the gala
EAS Banquet with its specialized ' entre, filet of sole stuffed with crab meat,
a top-line speaker, Dr. Marion Ellis presenting a slide presentation of the
60 years of honey bee involvement in postal service philatelics, presentations
of special honors to committees and particularly volunteers, introduction of
the 4 new EAS MASTER BEEKEEPERS who "made it" from the 17 who took the tests,
and a "final" speech by EAS President David Bernard thanking ALL for the "jobs"
they performed (even learning).
busied myself finding personal effects to I could get to my electric scooter
and head for bed and home the next day, when suddenly the LOUD voice of Master
Beekeeper Bill Troup shattered the quietness, saying "Mr. President, there is
a VERY SPECIAL Award yet to be presented" and he took the podium. Bill gave
a short talk about the value of learning, asked to see the hands of the audience
of 300+ who routinely read the PINK PAGES (about 200+) and forced me to stumble
my way up to the rostrum. Totally caught off guard, I could do nothing but CRY
like a baby. What a superb HONOR!
It is a
beautiful plaque, now hanging in my den doing "watch" over my computer; and
it is inscribed:
W. IMIRIE, JR.
endless commitment as an
"The Pink Pages"