How to Make Beeswax Lip Balm

Abigail got a beeswax lip balm kit for her birthday in June. She was super excited and finally made some in September. Our lip balm is made up of equal parts beeswax, sweet almond oil, and shea butter with a little flavoring. Beeswax creates a barrier on the skin, but still allows the skin to breathe. Sweet almond oil moisturizes the skin. Shea butter moisturizes and it is an anti-inflammatory and skin smoother. Abigail has noticed the difference in how her lips feel since using our lip balm. She now can tell the difference between a beeswax based lip balm and a petroleum based lip balm.

Abigail made a lip balm tube holder out of wood. We saw someone else’s lip balm tube holder and knew we needed one for making lip balm.


Abigail simply marked where she wanted to drill hole on the wood then drilled the holes with a drill bit that created the right sized circle.


Our little brothers helped make the lip balm tube holder by blowing off the sawdust and checking each hole for size.


Here is a close up of what it looks like.


Here is Abigail making the first batch of lip balm. She made strawberry lip balm.


Here is how the lip balm tubes fit in the holder. Each single batch of lip balm made about six lip balm tubes.


Here is what the beeswax, sweet almond oil, and shea butter looked like when it started melting. We melt it in a glass measuring cup in a pot filled with water. This is a safe way to melt beeswax. After this is all combined the flavoring is added. We have a large variety of flavors. To see all flavors go to Our Honey Bee Store.


Miriam helped make a latter batch of lip balm.


Here she is measuring out the sweet almond oil.


This is how we set up the containers when we use both lip balm tubes and cosmetic containers. We set up more than we think we need so that we do not have to stop to grab more.


Here Abigail is pouring Miriam’s batch of banana lip balm. We use a funnel to pour easier. It is really easy to overfill the containers.


Any cooled lip balm not in the containers is remelted down and poured again.


Here is the finished project. This is banana lip balm in a cosmetic container. We sell one cosmetic container for two dollars.


Here is lip balm in a lip stick tube. We sell one tube for two dollars.



Taking Product Photos

The way a product is presented effects the way a product is perceived. On a website good product pictures are important to show the beauty of any product.

Abigail and Bethany both took some of the product pictures for Our Honey Bee Store. One important thing to think about when taking product pictures is what is the angle like. Abigail tried to take the pictures at the same level as the products. This involved lots of bending over. Of course, she took the pictures on a muddy day, which meant no kneeling.


Background is important in any picture. We took most of the pictures outside to get the natural lighting, but this meant limited background control. Honey bee hives is a great background for honey and beeswax products.


This wooden outside table has a great worn wood look and green grass is always a great background.


This picture has a house in the background, but it is not bad because the house is not in focus.


How to present the spiral candles was something we thought about for a long time. These candles are burned in candle holders, but we did not want to use candle holders in pictures. We ended up using a ringer for Mom’s heart shaped triangle and put the string of the tied candles over it.


I really love this picture. I love how the honey draws the eye.


Shadows are something to always keep in mind when taking photos. In most of the above photos the shadows are pretty much nonexistent. Unfortunately, they cannot always be avoided. We were careful to not use any photos where a shadow fell over a product. Knowing where the sun was came in handy. I believe this is banana lib balm.


When photographing white things, glare is a common problem. We did not use this picture on our products page because of the glare coming of the white lip balm containers.


Here is a top view of all the honey we extracted from our first batch of honey.


This picture we actually use on both our products page and our Facebook page.


Editing does amazing things.


I love this picture. Bethany took it. I love it because it is a very artsy picture. Good job, Bethany!



Mite Rolls August 2018

Mite rolls show how many varroa mites are in a colony. If you don’t know what varroa mites are know this, we have blogged about them here.

Some people do not do mite rolls because they are already going to treat so why waste time mite rolling if no matter what it says you will treat? Others only treat if their hives have over a certain amount of mites because if there is only a few why waste money treating every hive. We however were treating no matter what and we were going to mite roll. Why? One reason is we wanted to learn how to do it. Another reason is information. Now we know how many mites we have and know if that hive dies we have a guess if the treatment failed or if the hive was already dead before we treated it.

We decided to mite roll only three hives because then we would get a general idea of the mite count and two of the hives had a brood break which reduces the number of mites in the hive. Mites get shared throughout the whole apiary.


We are all looking for the queen so we do not kill her in the mite roll.


We found a brood frame without the queen and Mr. Sander showed us how to roll down the bees backs and they would fall right into the jar. We used a brood frame because mites reproduce in brood cells and we would get a more accurate number.


Mr. Sander sprayed the hive with ether. Some people use powder sugar instead because it doesn’t kill the bees, but we used ether because that is what the Sanders suggested.


Here we are looking at the bees to see if we can spot any mites. We used a white bucket lid so that we could see the mite easier. Our mite count was four per three hundred. We treated with Apiguard.


Here is a frame that had a queen cup on it. See the destroyed wax that is hanging down in the middle of the frame.


Here are lots of bees on the inner cover.


Here is a drone frame that we feed to our chicken this will help with the mite load since mites love drone bees.


See if you can spot eggs on this frame. They look like grains of rice.


Or maybe you can spot eggs on this frame.



How to Make Plantain Salve

Plantain is a commonly thought of as a weed. Plantain, however, is an anti-inflammatory and helps prevent infections. Plantain may also accelerate healing and prevent scarring. Plantain is especially effective on bug bites and wasp or bee stings. Can you see why a beekeeper would love plantain salve?

Here are the links to the recipes we combined to make our plantain salve. and

This is what plantain looks like after it is picked. We dried the plantain leaves so that little to none water would be in our salve and the good nutrients would be pulled out during steeping.


Next, we steeped the plantain in coconut oil. Coconut oil also has many health benefits including anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Coconut oil also moisturizes the skin.


We filled the jar as full as we could with plantain and coconut oil. We had about two and a half jars of steeped plantain.


This is what the oil looked like after it steeped for about a month and we strained the plantain leaves out.


We had about thirty-five fluid ounces of plantain infused coconut oil. We added beeswax to the plantain oil. The beeswax thickens the oil turning it into a lotion. Beeswax in salves allows the skin to breathe while keeping the moisture in.


Finally, we poured the plantain salve into small canning jars and allowed them to cool.


The finished product.


We sell three ounce jars of plantain salve over at Our Honey Bee Store for $5. If the bugs just seem to love you, this is a great salve to heal the bug bites.



Working the IHPA Booth at the State Fair

We were able to work the Iowa Honey Producers Association’s Booth at the State Fair. We were really excited to give back especially to IHPA since Abigail received one of their Youth Scholarships. Abigail and Bethany worked five days of the state fair, Olivia worked three, and Miriam worked one.

Abigail worked the candle rolling station twice. She really enjoyed talking to all the state fair goers especially the kids. All the proceeds from the candle rolling station went to the queen so that she could continue to educate people about bees. Abigail also got to work the observation hives. Observation hives are thin one frame wide hives with windows so people can see into them. Abigail was able to share about what the bees were doing, point out the queen, and got to explain why bees are so helpful.


Bethany worked the register three days. This was her favorite task. Bethany sold cosmetics at her register. Bethany kept a careful eye out for potential products to make.


Olivia got to do a lot at the fair including working the candle rolling table, hand out free samples, bag for Bethany, and put ice in cups and fill them with delicious honey lemonade.


Bethany got to fill cups with ice and honey lemonade for two days. She enjoyed it and got to drink lots of lemonade. All volunteers get all the honey lemonade they can drink. A great perk to volunteering at something that is already a ton of fun.


Working the sample table was Olivia’s favorite thing to do. She loves honey so she is the perfect honey spokesperson. There were easily over thirty flavors of honey. There was even creamed honey which is honey that is allowed to purposefully crystallize.


Miriam worked the booth one day. She got to fill cups with ice and honey lemonade. Next year she is planning on working more.


We all wore our IHPA shirts the days we worked. We all enjoyed volunteering and plan on volunteering again next year.



Entering the State Fair

The last two years we have entered the Iowa State Fair apiary category. This year however we tried a few new things.

Mom was the only one of us to try her hand at art. She ended up winning a first place ribbon in the beeswax art category. There were only three entries which makes winning easy.


This year our bees produced beautiful capped frames full of honey. This is Abigail’s sixth place wining frame.


We also had extracted or wet frames. This is a frame Mom extracted herself. She won sixth place.


This is Abigail’s fifth place winning extracted frame.


This is Bethany’s third place winning extracted frame.


This is Olivia’s Second Place winning extracted frame. We won four of the six spots in this category.


This year we got Honey! So we bottled pound jars to enter in the State Fair. Abigail got second place in the youth category and Bethany got third place in the youth category.


Unfortunately, none of us won a placing in candles. There is always next year.


Mom got third place in photos with a lovely picture of a bee on autumn joy.


All in all we did really well at the state fair and are planning on entering again next year.


Bottling and Labeling Honey

We are finally back to writing blog posts after we recovered from our recent computer crash. Sorry for the delay.

Back in July, we harvested and extracted honey from our hives. The next step is bottling the honey. After bottling, the honey must be labeled if it is to be sold. Since we were planning on selling some of our honey, we planned to label it after bottling.

Day One of Bottling 

We started with four partially filled two gallon food grade buckets. It was about seventy-five pounds of honey.


Olivia pouring honey into a queenline jar. We set the jar on a scale so that we could keep the amount of honey in each jar semi equal.


Abigail pouring honey into a queenline jar. We did not pour directly from the two gallon buckets because of how heavy they were. Instead, we poured the honey first into a smaller food grade container than into the jar.


We filled all the jars to the same place so that all the jars would have an even amount of honey in them.


Bottling honey is a very sticky process that includes lots of hand washing.


Bethany looking longing at the honey.


Bethany moving a bucket of honey to bottle.


The finished product. The air bubbles will move to the top over the next couple of days leaving the honey clearer.


Honey Harvest and Extraction Take Two

In mid August, we harvested honey again. We pulled significantly less honey then the first time. The Sanders helped us extract again. We extracted about forty-two pounds of honey. We harvested and extracted a total of one hundred and seventeen pounds of honey. This is really good because the honey came off of one established hive and two new hives.


All the honey fitted in three two pound buckets which we may have gotten from a local gas station.


Honey Bottling Day Two

We bottled the second batch of honey on August 21st. This honey was noticeably darker than the first batch and tasted different.

Abigail and Bethany poured the honey into the bottles. Mom put lids on all the honey jars.


Bethany poured her honey into queenline jars while Abigail poured her honey into pint jars.


Olivia wiped down all the jars.


Labeling the Honey

As I previously said honey must be labeled before it can be sold. Honey labels must include the name of the product (i.g. raw local honey), ingredients list if there are extra ingredients (our honey has no additional ingredients), weight, where honey was bottled, and a warning that honey should not be given to infants under the age of one.

Mom cut out each of the labels.


Bethany placed the labels on the lids of the labels.


Abigail weighed the honey and wrote the weight on the label.


Olivia tied our business cards to the honey jars. Our friend cut yarn for Olivia to use.


Our finished product!


We put the plastic wrap we used to pull the foam off the honey outside and the bees went crazy for the honey.


A close up of a couple bees. There is nothing like free honey to a honey bee.


What was awesome was that it was mostly bees. There were very few wasps or flies.