CIBA September 2018 Meeting

The Central Iowa Beekeepers Association’s September 2018 meeting was held at the Dr. Amy Toth Lab Bee Field Station, in Ames, Iowa. The Dr. Amy Toth Lab Bee Field Station is located on the Iowa State University Horticulture Farm. The meeting included a presentation on winterizing by Jamie Beyer and Linn Wilbur, a tour of the Lab Bee Field Station, and a business meeting.

Overwintering is an important topic, because in Iowa a majority of hives die over the winter. If beekeepers properly prepare their bees for winter, the bees have a better chance of surviving winter. Just because bees die in the winter does not mean that the beekeeper did something wrong. This winter, we have had a large loss rate so far. Finding out why so many bees have died will better our knowledge of how to prep our bees for winter in the future. Winter prep is all about raising healthy, strong winter bees. There must be healthy bees to raise the strong winter bees. We must start preparing the bees for winter three generations of bees before the winter bees.

As always, beekeeping is local. The following calendar is based on Iowa temperatures and weather. In August and September, honey supers should be removed from the hives and the hives should be treated for varroa mites. Reducing the number of varroa mites in beehives will reduce the stress on the bees as they overwinter and will make the bees healthier. In October to November, honey bees should be fed sugar syrup and, if the beekeeper chooses, pollen substitute. This will ensure that the bees will have plenty of food to eat over the winter. In early December, all beehives should be winterized. Winterized means insulation, wrapping (when material gets wrapped around a hive to keep the hive warmer), and winter boxes (explained shortly) should be on and the hive should be sealed up for the winter. Emergency sugar should be added to the hive. We mountain camp our hives (explained in this blog post). Fondant and candy boards can also be used. If the beekeeper chooses to treat the bees with oxalic acid for varroa mites he will treat in late December or early January. From January to April, the beekeeper will monitor his hives to make sure they have enough emergency stores. The beekeeper will only go into the hives on warm days of forty degrees Fahrenheit or higher unless it is an emergency. In Iowa, we can expect the first dandelions to start blooming in mid April. Dandelions are the bees first food and announce the arrival of spring for beekeepers.

There are many winterizing options for hives. There are black cardboard boxes that go over the hives that keep the hive warmer (to the left of the picture below). Some beekeepers wrap their hives with tar paper to keep them warmer. Almost all Iowan beekeepers insulate their hive in some way because moisture is much more likely to kill the bees than cold. One way is to put a moisture board on top of the hive. We put winter boxes on our hives. Winter boxes have wood chips in them. The wood chips absorb the moisture and prevent it from dripping on the bees.


At the Dr. Amy Toth Lab Bee Field Station, they are doing research on what pollen bees are bringing from year to year. We were able to hear a presentation on their research and even see the difference ourselves. The bags on the table have pollen in them. They collect the pollen using a pollen trap which is on the far right of the table.


They are also doing research concerning Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) and Lake Sinai Virus (LSV). I am going to be completely honest, I have no idea what these clear things are.


They are also doing research concerning Kashmir Bee Virus (KBV) and (I believe) Black Queen Virus (BQV).


Here is some of the research data that they have collected concerning honey bee diseases, temperatures per month, and the effects of bees foraging on soy beans.


This poster shows some of there research concerning honey bees and the effect they may be having on native bees.


They have also been researching planting for pollinators. They have a plot of land that they plant for pollinators then they find out how many insects are attracted to the plot. Here is a box of Iowan pollinators including bees, flies, wasps, and butterflies.


This box contains beneficial insects including beetles, lady bugs, and praying mantises.


This box has more pollinators.


Olivia and Mom enjoying the ride on a tram.


Bethany enjoyed seeing all the pollinators.


I really enjoyed seeing what the researchers are doing up in Ames. I also enjoyed learning about overwintering and having a schedule for it.

Note: Always bring your beekeeping notebook with you to beekeeping events. Do not leave it in the car. I left my notebook in the car and was unable to go back and grab it.


Wintering update 2018/2019

Large winter losses have been reported from beekeepers all over the country. Right now, we have lost one of five hives, which is not high, but there is still a lot of winter to go. We knew going into winter that the hive that died was likely not going to survive, but we were hoping for the best. It had queen issues in the fall and we were pretty sure it was not queen right (there was not a good laying queen) going into winter. Some people would have combined the hive with a strong hive, but we chose to take four strong hives and one questionable hive into winter instead of adding a weak hive to a strong hive, perhaps compromising the strong hive.

Beekeepers, who have sent their bees to pollinate the almond crops in California, have experienced alarming winter loss numbers. The article Massive Loss Of Thousands Of Hives Afflicts Orchard Growers And Beekeepers, published by NPR, is an excellent article that the explains what has happened in California and what the results of these high winter losses could have for orchard growers and consumers. We personally know some beekeepers who shipped their hives and are experiencing large winter losses. Due to the high losses, package bees will be more expensive. It is also likely that there will be fewer packages for sale and also fewer nucs available for purchase.

What does all of this mean for the consumer? Honey prices will go up because commercial beekeepers will be focused on getting their hive numbers back up not on producing honey. The honey market may see an increase of fake or mystery origin honey which makes it important to buy local honey from a local beekeeper. Prices for crops reliant on hives being brought in for pollination will rise. The consumer can expect to see prices for nuts and orchard fruits to go up.


Checking Bees After Treatment

During treatments, beekeepers do not go into their hives for the treatments specified period. We treated with Apiguard with a treatment period of two weeks. Apiguard is a four week treatment. We have blogged about treatments here. After the four weeks were up, we got into our hives to see how they were doing. We minimally checked our hives between treatment.

Here is Mom, Abigail, and Bethany working on our hives.


Here is Mom looking at a frame. Notice the little comb on the side facing the camera. That is an outside frame and it will take the bees more time to fill it out with comb.


Notice that Mom is removing her first box, Bethany is cracking her top box to look in the bottom box, and Abigail is working on making room for her feeder. It shows the different paces people work at. It takes Abigail longer to go through her hive because her bees tend to be mean and she likes to look at what is going on in the other hives.


Everyone working on their hive.


Olivia is now working on her hive after making sugar water to feed our bees. Thanks Olivia.


Here is everyone working on their hives. Notice everyone working on their own hives.


Just because we work on our own hives does not mean that we can’t help each other. Here is Mom helping Bethany try to spot eggs on this frame.


We do not always check the full hive. Late in the season, we do not check the bottom box unless we are concerned about the queen.


All the hives except Bethany’s package hive (the middle hive) looked really good. Bethany’s package hive was having crazy queen issues which was not fun but was a good learning experience.


Treating for Varroa Mites

Varroa mites are parasitic mites that feed on the bees fat body. Varroa mites can spread diseases and kill colonies off if not kept at a small level. We have blogged about varroa mites and what they can do to a hive here.

We treated for varroa mites right after we removed the honey from the hives. We took a mite count to find out how many mites we had then treated the hives with Apiguard. Apiguard’s active ingredient is thymol, a naturally occurring substance. When handling any chemical, safety precautions must be taken. We wore disposable gloves and were careful not to rub our hands on anything. Apiguard is not dangerous as long as it is handled properly.

Apiguard, a gel, is squirted on cardboard tray on the top frames of the hive. The bees remove the gel and by removing it spread it around the hive.  By doing this they kill some varroa mites this helps keep the varroa mite population down. We treated our hives for four weeks. The treatment is very gentle and the bees are not disturbed by it. After the treatment was over, we fed the bees to build up their stores for winter.


Bagging Candles

Making your products look the best they can is an important part of having running a business. Whether this means adding fancy labels or adding bows to your products, it is important to make your products look the best they can. In our case we put our candles in little bags and tied them up with colorful twist ties. They look pretty and keep the dust off the candles.


Here you see packaged and non-packaged candles. You can also see Bethany cutting the bags shorter so it is just the right size to fit the candles.


Abigail is bagging the candles. We are being careful not to get the wax on the bags because we don’t want the bags to look smudged.


Look at all the candles we bagged. You can also see the molds some of the candles came from.


Mom is our quality control manager.


Pollinator Pictures 2018

We love our autumn joy (or sedum) plants. They bloom in the fall and the pollinators just love them. Having late blooming plants is important for honey bees because they need a constant source of pollen and nectar from spring to fall.


The sedum attracted not just honey bees but also bumble bees, butterflies, and moths.


Unfortunately, it also attracted pests like flies and wasps.


Here is a picture of a honey bee slurping up the nectar from the sedum.


I love seeing forager bees out and about busy collecting nectar and pollen.



September 2018 Des Moines Backyard Beekeepers Meeting

The Des Moines Backyard Beekeepers September 2018 meeting was a honey tasting and one of the beekeepers shared about her trip to D.C. where she was able to talk to some D.C. beekeepers and help inspect their hives.

Everyone brought some of their own honey. We brought some of our early honey and some of our late honey because the flavors are so different. There was honey from all around central Iowa, honey from D.C., and honey from the European country Georgia. The honey from Georgia was incredibly different from the honey from the United States. The Georgian honey had a completely different texture from the American honey. The D.C. honey had a distinct taste completely different from the Iowa honey. Even the Iowa honeys tasted unique. Honey is truly a very unique food.

This tag came with the D.C. honey.


It was interesting to see how beekeepers in D.C. keep their bees. Some of them keep their hives on their garage roof or on their porch due to how small yards are in D.C. I cannot imagine keeping bees in such a small space. Honey bees are an important part of any ecosystem, even highly urbanized ecosystems.