Craftsmen

The Grand Beekeeper, Pat Imbimbo

How one Brother became the accidental beekeeper

Of all of the Working Tools in Freemasonry, one always receives a common response of a raised eye or curious question. The Beehive. We know it to be an ancient symbol of industry and harmony found in historical writings from the Egyptians and Romans, later adopted in The Bible. Newly raised Master Masons may be more familiar with the Bee Movie, an animated film starring Jerry Seinfeld as Barry the Bee. It is clear that since the dawn of humanity, the work of bees continues to be a marvel. But what can we as Freemasons learn from this example of nature? For one Brother, bees offer more than a source of wonder; they also support his family while providing daily insight into his understanding of science and humanity.

RW Pat Imbimbo is the owner of Uncle Pat’s General Store. His family farm is located in Granville, New York, an Adirondack town situated on the eastern border of Vermont. RW Imbimbo calls himself “the accidental beekeeper,” receiving his first hives in 1984 as a gift. He detailed a typical-late night patrol on Florida’s Alligator Alley as a deputy sheriff. The evening quickly took a turn when a speeding tractor-trailer zoomed by his patrol spot at 2 AM. As it would turn out, the semi-truck was stolen; its cargo was a load of beehives from a farmer in Ft. Myers. Deputy Imbimbo remained with the truck until the farmer could claim it. What transpired at sunrise piqued an interest in bees that remains to this day.

At daybreak, he witnessed an awesome scene. “There were no nets on the hives. When the sun came up, the bees came out to look for nectar and pollen. There were probably 200 colonies of bees on the truck; I mean, bees were coming out from all over the place. The whole Florida Everglades was filling up with bees,” RW Imbimbo described. The deputy remained stuck with the farmer while they waited for sundown. During that day, RW Imbimbo asked the farmer the typical questions heard by most beekeepers. After helping the farmer secure the bees that evening, the deputy returned to his patrol. A few weeks later, he received two hives as a gift, which started his beekeeping hobby. “My hobby led to a small business that supports my family,” he added.

Grand Beekeeper

The Facebook video illustrates how RW Pat Imbimbo earned the distinction of Grand Beekeeper, from MW William M. Sardone, through his work at the Masonic Care Community in Utica, New York.

Facebook post Masonic Care Community Center Beehive

A symbol of industry

Beekeeping is a year-long business with seasons. RW Imbimbo explained how the bees’ life cycle, being most productive in the summer, works with his farm’s other aspects. His family taps around 3,000 maple trees every year. “The bees are in their hives when it’s cold; that’s when we start working on the maple project. In the spring, we go back to the bees.” This has been the pattern for over twenty years on his farm. Beekeeping transitioned from a hobby to a vocation also brought new knowledge in science. RW Imbimbo spoke to the study of his colonies. “The biggest I have learned is how well-organized bees are. I can go from hive to hive, and they are all doing the same thing, depending on the time and weather that day. That has always fascinated me.”

An organization of men can learn a lot from a beehive. For one, there are stations in life bees follow, patterned closely to the degrees in Freemasonry. A bee’s lifespan is 28 days in the summer, a little longer in the winter. After being raised from larvae, younger bees serve as nurses to new bees. From caretakers, bees progress to production, “warehouse workers” as RW Imbimbo refers to them. These bees work in clusters inside the hive, some as manufacturers of the cells (honeycomb) that serve as nests for their eggs and storage areas for honey. They also take turns in keeping the temperature at an optimal 95 degrees. Groups of worker bees flap their wings, like fans, to move heat in and out of the hive. Other workers act as gatekeepers, security guards that ward off wasps and other intruders attempting to enter the hive. It isn’t until the end stage of a bee’s life that it leaves the hive as a forager for pollen and nectar.

RW Pat Imbimbo
RW Pat Imbimbo tending to the Grand Hives at the Masonic Care Community of New York in Utica, NY

After hearing Bro. Imbimbo detail this 30-day cycle; it was easy to see how one could easily become fascinated in watching this band of craftsmen at work.

I came back to RW Imbimbo’s point on how well organized bees are. That bees are well organized and remain that way from hive to hive. He said, “They are predictable. Lodges can be predictable and organized, as well.” As we travel, there is reassurance in the order of a Lodge meeting. From the ritual used to open the meeting to the flow of work until the Lodge is closed. If you examine the business of a Lodge through the lens of a beehive, you see the newly raised, the workers, the clusters, the protectors. The beehive is a symbol of industry, but also an example of order and obedience — just as worker bees are critical in the life of the queen bee, a Lodge culture is dependent on the Brothers supporting their Master. In his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, Albert Mackey concludes how the beehive “itself is a trifle, and scarcely worth ten minutes of thought; what it stands for is one of the largest and most important subjects in the world, and up until now one of the least understood.”

Written by Bro. Michael Arce, Editor-in-chief of Craftsmen Online JW Mt. Vernon Lodge #3, Albany, New York

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