Sunday, September 11, 2005

Bee Keepers, Havers, and Meddlers

bees on stonecropThe photo this time shows a pot of stonecrop on my roof, a feasting site for bees of all persuasions over the past week. It's included here for two reasons: finally there is something out there for the girls to eat, and it turns out to be something I can happily plant en masse on a hot city roof. Where coneflowers and buddleia have failed, bring on the succulents!

Speaking of sources of consternation and hope, beekeepers all over mention the name George Imirie with reverence and wonder. On the BeeSource forums, the experts write, "If George said it, you can take it to the bank." An authority, and a personality. Legend has it that Mr. Imirie once demonstrated the harmlessness of honeybees by wearing only a speedo and playing his clarinet in a screened in cage containing a couple of colonies. Less legendary: he founded the bee club of which I am a member, and only retired from it (and this geographic area) a year ago.

George Imirie wrote much valuable (and very forceful) advice about beekeeping in a series of pamphlets known as "the Pink Pages," and it would be a mistake to ignore them. But he also made a CAPITALIZED distinction between "beeKEEPERS" (i.e. good and responsible citizens of the apiary world) and "beeHAVERS" (dissolute sorts who kill their bees and still dare walk the streets with heads held high).

Having been born an anxious soul, it's perfectly obvious that I would get a complex about this. However, there is more to say on the topic.

As is often the case when a great leader passes the mantle, whispers start in the wings. "Well, George always said 'menthol by Labor Day' but it was just too hot this year..." or "I just don't think the Imirie shim gave me anything but more bridge comb ..."

But beekeepers still very much refer to George Imirie's expertise, even as we continue to teach Newton in the age of Einstein (and we even teach Einsteinian shortcomings now). This week, a fellow member of our beekeeping club called, and of course I pestered him with question after question, and the conversation came round to "What Would George Do?" I told Marc (the other beekeeper) that I figgered myself for a lowly beeHAVER, and he paused before he responded. This summer was a hard one for Marc: he lost several colonies to American Foul Brood, and had to make lots of decisions about how to manage the whole apiary while dealing with the infection. He said he had posed the question, "HAVER versus KEEPER" to the person whose orchard he was pollinating. And she said, "You are more a beeMEDDLER I think."

Perhaps there are other fraternities of bee enthusiasts to which I could pledge my loyalty: the beeFUMBLERS, the beeWORRIERS, the beeDAZZLED (sorry about that last one). Though a lowly sinner, I also claim beeVANGELIST.

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