Making Bee Boxes and Frames

You can buy assembled or unassembled hive bodies and frames. Assembled equipment is put together and is therefore more expensive. Unassembled is not built and less expensive. As part of the IHPA Scholarship, Abigail received an unassembled hive. The hive consists of two deeps, two honey supers, the bottom board and covers, and all the frames. We also bought a second hive for Bethany. Now we had to assemble the hives with the help of our mentors.


Bethany and Olivia getting ready to work. We are inside because its the middle of January and is cold outside.




Bethany, Olivia, and Abigail hammering nails into frames while our mentor, Mike, keeps a watchful eye.




Trying to square a bee box. If the box is not square the frames will not fit properly.




Olivia and Abigail hammering nails into a bee box.




Bethany squaring a box outside when it got warmer.




Bethany and Abigail getting out pieces of frames.




Mr. Sander checking over frames and using a nail gun to put the nails in tilted at the top of the frame. These nails are important because as the frame is filled with brood and honey the weight of it will weigh on the top of the bar. If the brood and honey becomes to heavy, the top of the frame will break of from the rest of the frame.




Mom giving a goofy face and taking a break from work.




One of our younger sisters was playing with toys and making a mess.



Now we need to paint the boxes. We will do this after we find paint that is on sale.




The Arrival of Our Beekeeping Supplies

We ordered our beekeeping supplies in January. They arrived just a few days after we ordered them.


Abigail, eager to get our beekeeping supplies, went outside barefoot in the middle of January. They were huge boxes and extremely heavy.




Abigail and our three boxes of beekeeping supplies.




Abigail holding a one gallon feeder. A feeder holds sugar syrup in a safe way for the bees to eat.




I am holding a package of deep, unassembled  frames. Deep frames will be holding brood and pollen in spring, summer, fall, and winter. Abigail is holding a bee brush. Bee brushes are used to gently brush bees off frames and other surfaces.




Here is the inside of one of the boxes of bee supplies. You can see foundation which we will put in the frames to give the bees a head start on making comb. There are bee jackets with attached veils which are used to protect our face, arms and chest from bee stings. You can also see a brown box. Inside this box is a smoker which is used to calm down bees.




Abigail and her bee suit.




This is the smoker. Abigail won a smoker at the annual IHPA conference. Now we have two smokers.




Foundation and frames in the box.




I love my suit so much I started playing games in it.




Abigail and me modeling our new suits and acting like weirdos.






October 2017 Hive Inspection

On a warm October day, Bethany, Olivia, and our younger brother helped Mike and Julie inspect the hives. After October, hive inspections in Iowa become few and far between as the temperature begins to drop. It is important to help the bees prepare for winter by feeding them and by duck taping any large cracks in the equipment to prevent the wind from getting in the hive and chilling the winter bees.



Here they are checking the feeder to make sure there is enough sugar syrup in it.




In this picture, Mike is filling the feeders with 2:1 sugar water. Mike and Julie feed the bees so they will have plenty of resources to make it through the long, cold Iowa winter. Mike and Julie fed their bees with 2:1 by weight sugar water. They also put a mountain camp on top. To create a mountain camp a beekeeper lays down damp newspaper on the top box’s frame then pile sugar on top. The beekeeper then lightly mists the sugar so that it packs together. The mountain camp supplies emergency food stores for the bees and helps stop condensation from dripping on the bees. These things help the bee’s survival chances.




Our little brother looking into the feeder to watch the bees eat.




Here Mike is showing Olivia and our little brother a frame of brood.




Mike found something really interesting and everyone wanted to see it.




Here they are beginning to put the hives back together.




Mike is pushing all the frames together. This is important because if the frames are not pushed together the bees will fill out the comb in usual ways. This is bad because it is harder to put the frames back in the future if the comb is unusually shaped.





Learning About the Bees and Preparing for Winter

Observing bees then looking up any behaviors that you do not understand is a great way to learn more about bees.


Here a honey bee is slurping up honey of the lid of her hive.




In this picture a bee is returning home.




Here are some bees at the entrance of their hive.




When bees are warm they beard. Bearding is when the bees gather on the outside of the hive to cool down the hive.




These pictures were taken on a hot, July day so the bees had an excellent reason to beard.




Here is a picture of bees bearding during the day.




Here is a picture of the hives in July. The great big hive is actually two colonies! Normally two colonies do not live together in one hive. We figured out that there were two colonies living in one hive when Mike and Julie noticed that there were eggs in both the deep boxes and the supers. To find out if the queen was in the brood boxes or the supers at the time of the inspection they placed a queen excluder between the deep boxes and the supers to prevent the queen from moving throughout the hive. A queen excluder is a metal rack that is used to prevent the queen from moving freely throughout the hive. At the next inspection there were still eggs in both the deep boxes and the supers. First Mike and Julie thought that maybe the queen was so small that she was slipping through the queen excluder. Another possibility was that the queen was flying from the bottom entrance to the top entrance and laying eggs on both sides of the queen excluder. The second possibility is very unlikely because when a queen is laying she weighs so much she cannot fly. They finally figured out that there where two queens in this hive. One queen was laying eggs above the queen excluder and the other was laying eggs below it. This was an extraordinary thing. The workers were caring for two queens!




Here is a picture after Mike and Julie split the two hives. They kept one hive one on top of the other so that the foragers would return to their proper colonies.




This is an upper entrance of a hive.




Here are bees in flight.




Here is the entrance of a hive. Guard bees protect the hive from intruders.




Here is a ball of bees trying to enter the top hive entrance.




Here is the bottom entrance. Look at the bees in the “v” position.




Here is another view of the bottom entrance. Notice all the bees that are between the bottom board and the bottom deep box.




Here are workers entering the top entrance.




A huge group of bees that have gathered on the side of the hive.




Here is one of our younger sisters, Olivia, Mike, and me beginning a hive inspection.  Our younger sister is standing in the background, observing.  This is actually a big step for her and I am proud of her being willing to be so close.




Look at all the smoke that is above the hive.




Here we are looking at the first few frames.




I am pulling a frame from the super. Julie is showing our younger sister a frame.




We are looking for the queen or eggs on this frame. Olivia has an eye for spotting eggs. In preparation for winter, the queen lays bees to survive the winter. She stops laying eggs after that because when brood is in the hive the nurse bees protect it. The nurse bees will kill themselves to keep the brood warm.




Here I am getting a better look at the frame. The easiest way to spot eggs is to stand with your back to the sun and tilt the frame slightly so that you can see straight into the bottom of the cells.




Olivia showing of one of her favorite things. Honey!




The bees entering or leaving through the inner cover.




A honey bee slurping up honey we dripped all over the frames.






The Iowa Honey Producers Association’s Annual Conference

One of the requirements of the scholarship is attending the IHPA‘s annual conference. In 2017, it was held in Oskaloosa, Iowa. The conference is a two day event. We had to go to at least part of the first day because I would be interviewed on the first day and the banquet was on the first day.

The first session we attended was on pollinator friendly gardening with Rhonda Fleming Hayes as the speaker. This session was really interesting because she explained how it is easy to have a pollinator friendly gardening.  One interesting thing about Ms. Flemming Hayes is that my mom had checked out her book, Pollinator Friendly Gardening: Gardening for Bees, Butterflies, and Other Pollinatorsfrom the library in a previous winter because she wanted to add more pollinator friendly plants to our house.



Bethany and I at the Women is Beekeeping breakout session. This session was a question and answer time with an all female panel. Two of the panelist are prominent Iowan beekeepers, Erin Miller and  Maia Jaycox. Erin Miller is the IHPA vice president and Maia Jaycox was the 2017 American Honey Queen.




Here is a picture of the panel. Maia Jaycox is the one wearing the crown.




After the breakout session, we went to where all the youth scholarship finalist were assembling. The 2017 Youth Scholarship recipients shared about their year. Then the 2018 queen candidates shared how they got interested in beekeeping.  Maia Jaycox, the 2017 Anerican Honey Queen shared how she got interested in beekeeping and about the American Honey Queen Program. Carly Raye Vannoy, the 2017 Iowa Honey Queen, then gave a presentation on beekeeping. She is such a good speaker and her presentation was informative and interesting. During Carly Raye Vannoy’s presentation, the youth scholarship finalist were called back and interviewed. I was nervous for my interview, but it turned out to be a lot less nerve racking then I thought it would be.



Shortly after the interview was the banquet. Here are Bethany and I at the banquet. Dennis VanEngelsdorp was the speaker during the banquet.




Here are all of the 2018 Youth Scholarship winners. I’m standing behind the coordinator. I believe there were nineteen winners in all.




Here are the rest of the winners.




There I am (in the red dress) walking off stage. After standing on stage, we took pictures.




Here are the five of us girls on Saturday at the conference.




Here is Olivia excited to be at the conference.








Here I am. On Saturday, we attended a session called The State of the Iowa Honeybees. Andy Joseph, our state apiarist, shared his observations on the health of Iowa’s honey bees.


We also attended a session on oxalic acid presented by Marion Ellis, a second session presented by Dennis VanEngelsdorp, and a session on honey bees in Iowa presented by Matt O’Neal. We attended a breakout session on beginning beekeeping that Doyle Kincy taught. Mr. Kincy is part of the Friendly Beekeepers of Iowa and will show up again on the blog, so keep reading.

The IHPA conference was very informative and interesting. I am excited for the next year’s conference.







Pollinator Pictures

As I was looking through our bee pictures, I was astonished at how many amazing pictures of pollinators I found. 


Mom took all of these pictures.

This is a honey bee sucking nectar form the flower of a mint plant.



Can you see this honey bee’s proboscis? The proboscis is a tongue that slurps up nectar.



A bumblebee, a bee that helps pollination greatly. Unlike honey bees, bumblebees are solitary bees and do not live in hives like the honey bee.




Bethany took all the pictures with the pollinators on the butterfly bush.

Here is a honey bee on a butterfly bush.




This particular butterfly bush was very popular among the bees. In this picture a bumblebee is sucking up the nectar.



The whole time this plant was in bloom, bees were all over it.




We are not sure exactly what is happening in this picture, but I think that this honey bee was killed by some insect. It looks like maybe there is even the spider that killed it on top of it.


Mom took all of these final pictures.

A painted lady on Autumn joy flower.




The side view of a painted lady.




A honey bee on an Autumn joy.




A honey bee and a painted lady on the same clump of flowers.




Autumn joys are good plants for honey bees because they bloom in the late summer to fall when less plants are blooming.




The honey bees love Autumn joys because there are often lots of flowers in a small space.




The painted ladies wings are colorful on one side.




Here is a good picture of the colorful side of the butterfly’s wing.




Another picture of the painted lady.




Notice that the non-pretty side of the butterfly’s wings have eye looking coloring to scare predators away.




Here is a full picture of a clump of Autumn joy.




A gorgeous picture of a painted lady.




Two painted ladies on nearby flowers.





State Fair 2017

At the Iowa State Fair there is an Iowa Honey Producers Association a booth in which you can see different products of a hive and things beekeepers make from the hive.

Here you can see different home made honey bee themed gift baskets. In the baskets you can see books, candles, cream soaps, and many other useful items. This is one of the categories you can enter in to get a prize and a ribbon.




Here is a presentation. You chose a theme and make a presentation based on that theme. This can also be entered for a prize.



Another presentation box. Look at all the cute toys.




Here is a presentation box that relays the commercial beekeeper world.




Here are candles, beeswax blocks, and honey that were entered in the fair. We entered in the candle category. I will point out ours in a different picture.




Olivia and her picture, the one to her right with the front of the hive with bees on it.




Abigail and her picture, the one on the lowest shelf to her right this is a frame of brood.




Bethany with her picture, the one to her right her hand is under.




Moms picture placed fourth  in the adult beekeeping related catagor . Notice Olivia gets to be in the prize winning picture.




This ones on the shelf are the youth pictures excluding the winners.




Here are the prize winning pictures of the youth and adults. Mom’s picture is fourth from the left on the second shelf.




Here is Olivia looking at her second place winning rose candles.




Our candles: Olivia’s are the rose candles, Abigail’s are the candles in the glass, and Bethany’s candles are the ones shaped like bee hives right behind the tall thick spiral ones.








Preparing for the State Fair

Late summer is a really busy time for beekeepers. It is not only the end of the honey flow and start of the mite treatment season; it is also State Fair season. Honey flow is the season when lots of nectar comes into the hive and lots of honey is made.  If you want to enter beekeeping related products in the state fair, you have to prepare the entries and get them to the fair. Pictures can be taken throughout the year. Beeswax can be rendered throughout the year, also, but the important work is done right before the state fair. Such as getting pictures ordered, making candles, making creams, and other things.  Honey is processed and filtered right before the state fair as the competition is strong in that category and the requirements are very strict.


Olivia taking pictures of the bees’ entrance.




Olivia and me taking pictures and chitchatting. Once you start taking pictures of bees you are addicted.




Some beeswax that we rendered and made into candles the Iowa State Fair. If you don’t know what rendering is I wrote a blog post called Rendering Beeswax.



Spoiler Alter!


Olivia and her envelope that contains her prize money. All Olivia’s hard work of making candles paid off.




Olivia acting shocked about the prize money.