Rendering Beeswax

Rendering beeswax is an important step in making beeswax products. Rendering is a process of filtering out impurities, that come from bees living and working in the comb, by melting and filtering the comb/wax. If the wax is not rendered properly it will not be clean and products will not be effective and candles and art made out of wax will not look nice and none of it will smell nice.


This is a bucket of beeswax before the rendering process.  This was harvested from the hives and it is made up of brood comb, honey comb, and burr comb.  The darkest stuff has been well used brood comb.  When bees emerge, they leave cocoons behind and that darkens the comb.  The lighter comb is fresher comb, usually it was new or simply stored honey.  The burr comb is comb the bees built in areas that we, as beekeepers, don’t want it built, so it is removed.





My mom is tying an old shirt on our crock pot. Many other people use cheese cloth to Render the wax this also works.




Abigail is pouring  water into the crock pot to help melt the wax.




Abigail and Bethany adding beeswax on top of the shirt, while the younger sibling watch on with glee.




Adding more beeswax. We will have to do another batch of rendering.




The beeswax just starting to melt. melting the beeswax will take a couple of hours for each set of beeswax.




The is beeswax mostly melted. look at all the impurities  in the wax.




The beeswax is all Rendered and starting to harden.



Here is a ball if  impurities it can be use as a fire starter, chicken food and many other things.




On a different day we are rendering new wax from honey supers. This is like virgin wax and is perfect for products that will be put on or in the body.  I will explain the difference in wax in future posts.

Here is Olivia adding wax to our crock pot.




This is the crock pot with wax in it.



Sorry I don’t have any pictures of the wax filtered and hardened.



Applying for the IHPA Youth Scholarship

In 2017, my mentors told us about the Iowa Honey Producers Association’s Youth Scholarship program. Bethany and I talked about it and decided to apply for the program. The winners of the scholarship receive everything to get started in beekeeping including a beginners hive kit, protective gear, a hive tool, and smoker. The winners also get mentored for a year by a local beekeeper.  We would also get a 3 pound package of bees free. One of the criteria for receiving the scholarship is that you cannot have any relatives with honey bees. Because of this rule, only one of us would win the scholarship. Applicants must also be between the ages of thirteen and seventeen and be enrolled in some form of school.

We printed, filled out, and mailed the application in June. Filling out the application was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. Along with the application, one of our parents had to fill out a waiver and we had to get two letters of recommendation. Now we had to wait until October to find out if either of us had won.

Here we are ready to send out our applications.



In October, the youth scholarship coordinator called to tell me that I was a finalist. As a finalist, I would have to attend part of IHPA’s annual conference and get interviewed. I will write about this in a future post.

If you are interested in beekeeping or a young person you know is interested in beekeeping, you should see if your state beekeeping association has a program similar to the IHPA’s Youth Scholarship Program and apply for it. Youth scholarship programs like the IHPA’s are great ways to get started in beekeeping.






Inspecting the Bees in the Spring of 2017

In the spring of 2017, we got to work with Mike and Julie’s honey bees again. We learned even more in 2017 and got to work a little more actively in their hives.


Here is a picture taken in February of 2017. If you look closely at this pictures you’ll see honey bees on the front of both the hives.




Look at the bees flying home or flying away.




You can really see the bees wings in this picture. Bees have two sets of wings. When they fly, the two sets of wings attach together for simultaneous motion.




Look at how many bees are coming and going from just two hives on a warm day in February.




This bee is investigating the rock on top of her hive.


These next photos are from May of 2017. Mike and Julie split one of the hives to create three full sized hives and one nuc. A nuc is a bee box with only five frames inside it.


When you keep bees you need a lot of equipment. Here we are helping Mike and Julie bringing equipment down to where the beehives are.




Here we are preparing to start a hive inspection.




Mike and Julie are each inspecting a hive here. Julie is going to split one of the hives and create a second full sized hive. Mike is making the nuc, the little wood box.




Here we are continuing to inspect the hives. Us girls are helping Mike with his inspection and split.




The front deep box is resting kiddy corner on the covers so that grass does not stick to the bottom of it.




Mike is holding up a frame in this picture. The bees have just started drawing out the comb on this frame.




Mike is showing the frame to Bethany, Abigail, and Olivia.



Mike is showing the other side of the frame to the girls. When inspecting a hive, a beekeeper checks both sides of each frame for eggs or the queen, brood in all stages, and honey and pollen. There is capped brood, larvae, and honey on this side of the frame.




Here we are finishing up the inspection.








Abigail’s Favorite Beekeeping Books

Over the winter of 2016-2017, I read lots of beekeeping books to learn more about honey bees. Reading books about beekeeping is an excellent way to learn about bees. It is also a great way to wait for spring and summer when one can finally work with one’s bees or a friend’s bees. The following books are some of my favorite books I read.


Homegrown Honey Bees : An Absolute Beginners’s Guide to Beekeeping : Your First Year, from Hiving to Honey Harvest by Alethea Morrison. I liked this book because it had lots of colorful pictures and the author shared lots of stories from her first years. This was an excellent book that covers the basics of beekeeping. It followed the author’s first few years of beekeeping. The book, however, is very basic and is not a book that a intermediate or advanced beekeeper would learn something from.


Beekeeping for Dummies by Howard Blackiston. I realize by saying I like this book I am inadvertently calling myself a dummie, but this book was excellent because it covered everything from the basics to more advanced methods.  If you want to read or buy this book I would definitely suggest finding the most recent copy as this book is constantly being updated. I did not like that all the pictures were grouped up in the middle of the book so the book was not very colorful. This book took me a really long time to read and I definitely did not absorb all the information.


Keeping Bees and Making Honey by Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum. I liked this book because it viewed beekeeping from a honey point of view. If you are getting into beekeeping because of the honey this is the book for you. This book even includes honey recipes.


A Short History of the Honey Bee Humans, Flowers, and Bees in the Eternal Chase for Honey by E. Readicker-Henderson. I liked this book because it discussed beekeeping from more of a historical  and scientific point of view and how beekeeping has changed over time. Although I do not agree with some of the authors points of views about history, I still enjoyed reading this book.



Bethany’s Favorite Honey Bee Books

Reading books is not only a great way to learn about bees but is also quite fun. The best time to read is in the winter when you aren’t in the hives and when you aren’t harvesting honey. Here are some of my favorite books that I have read so far.


First Lessons in Beekeeping is one of my favorite books. It is good if you are interested in beekeeping and don’t know much about it. It teaches you what to do and what not to do when starting beekeeping. It teaches you about the tools and what they are there for. This book teaches the basics of beekeeping and is an excellent choice of bee books.


Beekeeping for Dummies  is a good book even though it is very controversial. Even if you don’t agree with every thing in this book there is plenty to learn from it. It teaches about basics about the good and the bad of beekeeping. It is a book that will make you afraid of beekeeping or want to run right into beekeeping. If you are not sure about beekeeping I suggest you read this book.


Keeping Bees and Making Honey is a book that revolves around the steps towards making honey. It gives suggestions to help your bees make more honey. It goes over the basics of beekeeping, also, but the focus is on the honey. If you want to go into beekeeping for making honey I would suggest you read this book and at least one other book. If you like food there are recipes for different honey related dishes.



Working with Bees in 2016

In 2016, Mr. Mike and Mrs. Julie (my mentors) placed two hives on our property because they cannot have beehives on their property. We were able to work with Mike and Julie’s bees that they placed on our property. We learned a lot about honey bees from inspecting the hives with them.


Nathan, (our older brother), Mr. Mike, and Mrs. Julie inspecting a beehive. During an inspection, they look for either the queen or eggs, larvae in all stages, capped brood, and ample supplies of pollen and honey.




Another day, Mr. Mike, Mrs. Julie, and Bethany inspecting the hives. Watch as the hives get bigger and bigger.




Mrs. Julie showing us a frame. Notice the white comb which is where the honey is stored and the orange dots of capped brood.

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Mrs. Julie and our younger sister talking about what is going to happen during the hive inspection.

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Mr. Mike, our younger sister Olivia, Abigail, and Mrs. Julie beginning an inspection. Mr. Mike is smoking the hive entrance to calm the bees down and hide the bees pheromones. Mrs. Julie is showing Olivia and Abigail a frame and pointing out the honey and brood on it. Can you see all the bees flying around the hive?

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Mr. Mike and Mrs. Julie take turns pulling frames so that they can put them back in the right order. The frames should be put back in the same order so the brood nests stays together in the middle of the hive body and the resources are on the outside frames.




Placing the frames back in the hive carefully.



Mrs. Julie explaining what they saw in the inspection.



Drones (male bees) are incapable of stinging and are very gentle. Olivia is holding one in her hands.




Our younger sister tentatively holding a drone.




Our even younger brother courageously letting the done crawl on him as well.




Honey bees taking off from the robbing screen. A robbing screen helps the bees defend their hive by creating a certain amount of space for the bees to defend from intruders. The bee at the very top has pollen (the orange blobs on her legs) in her pollen sacs.

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A hornet, an enemy of the honey bee, is often confused with bees. Bees sting only for self-defense and protection of their hive. Bees die after they sting. Hornets, yellow jackets, and wasps are often aggressive and sting for no reason. Hornets, yellow jackets, and wasps can sting over and over again and do not die just because they stung something.




Olivia and Bethany taking pictures of the beehives.




Honey comb that was scraped from the hive because it was not in the proper location.  I will talk more about beeswax and its uses in another post in the future.




A bee sipping up honey from the telescoping lid of her hive.  She will take this honey back to her hive.

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Iowa Honey Producers Association  (IHPA) State Fair booth – 2016

The IHPA booth is on the second floor above the butter cow in the agriculture building. At the IHPA booth they showcase entries to the Iowa State Fair, beekeepers educate fair goers about honey bees and beekeeping, and there is a stand that sells locally produced honey and honey related products.


This is one part of the IHPA booth in which you can see beeswax candles and art, gift baskets, and bee related pictures which were entered in the Iowa State Fair.




Some of us standing in front of the honey frames at IHPA booth.




A honey bee hitched a ride on our stroller.  (Yes it came along with us inside the building.)




We assume she came from one of the observation hives that were on display at the IHPA booth.



A strawberry blossom, one of the bees’ sources of food.



Autumn joy, a fall plant the bees pollinate.
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