Our First Year of Beekeeping in Review

Our first year of beekeeping was filled with learning experiences, challenges, and fun. We loved learning more about the bees as well as learning how to care for them. All our blog posts mentioned are linked.

We say our year started at the Iowa Honey Producers Association’s Annual Conference in 2017 where Abigail received the IHPA Youth Scholarship. The conference was full of good information and was a great way to meet other beekeepers.


Bethany (left) and Abigail (right) at the banquet Friday night of the IHPA Conference.

Our beekeeping equipment came in January. We got three huge boxes.


The three boxes went up to Abigail’s waist!

We built our equipment with the help of our mentors, Mike and Julie Sander. Making frames with a hammer is difficult.


Bethany (left) and Abigail (right) made eighty frames with the help of their mentors and sister.

Beekeeping classes are informative and help create confidence. We loved the Friendly Beekeepers of Iowa beginning beekeeping class. We blogged about each class individually. The picture is featured in 2018 Beekeeping Class: Week Three – Getting Started.


Abigail (left) and Bethany (right) learned a lot at the FBI beekeeping class.

Abigail gave a beekeeping presentation at her 4-H group in March of 2018.


Abigail explains what a super is to her 4-H group.

We completed making our equipment in March by gluing the joints and painting the boxes.


Bethany made sure all the joints were painted really well to ensure the boxes held up well outside.

Because we knew when we were getting out bees, we were able to prepare for the bees by setting out the equipment and making sure it was all level.


Bethany (right) makes sure that the hive is tipped slightly forward to let water run out.

The Central Iowa Beekeepers Association is a great group that has meetings every quarter and has an annual auction. We helped at the auction by helping set up, helping consignors sign in, and Abigail took pictures.

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Bethany shadowed Mr. Mike during the CIBA auction.

We picked up our bees on April 21st, 2018. We got two packages of bees from Spring Valley Honey in Perry, Iowa. When we got home we installed our bees right away. We started with two packages and a established hive.

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Olivia (left), Bethany with her package of bees (middle), and Abigail with her package of bees (right) at Spring Valley Honey.

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Bethany (left)and Olivia (middle) work on installing Bethany’s package while Abigail (right) closes up her newly installed hive.


Bethany (left) pouring her bees into their new home.

We built nucs and swarm traps with the help of Mr. Sander. We used the nucs to put splits in and put up the swarm trap in hopes of catching a swarm.


Mr. Sander (left), Abigail (middle left), Bethany (middle right), and Nathan (right) look over the plans before cutting out the pieces.

We inspected our hives for the first time on April 23rd, 2018. Our bees had moved into their hives and had found their queens.


At first, we were concerned that Bethany’s bees were trying to kill their queen. Thankfully, they accepted her as their queen.

We inspected our hives on April 27th, 2018 to make sure that the bees had released their queens and were beginning to fill out the frames. We found Abigail’s queen and saw eggs in Bethany’s hive, Lakti. Maylyn Sorority was doing well.


The frames in the new hives had lots of new, white wax in them.

We put up a swarm trap at our house and a swarm trap at a friend’s house. Unfortunately, we did not catch a swarm.


Our dad helped put up the swarm traps because they were up high in a tree.

The bees had begun to build out their second deep on May 31st.


Bethany (right) is spraying a frame with sugar water.

During our June 9th hive inspection the bees were literally overflowing.


These bees are from Maylyn, the established hive.

Mr. Mike and Mrs. Julie helped us mark the queen from the established hive, Maylyn. We spotted the queen many times throughout the year.


Olivia watches Mr. Mike mark the queen.

We split Maylyn in June of last year. The nuc became Olivia’s hive Primlox.


We shook bees from Maylyn into a nuc.

Olivia and Mom moved Olivia’s nuc into deeps. The bees quickly adapted to their new home.


Olivia (left) is putting a frame of honey into the deep.

We have worked on expanding what products of the hive we make and sell. The bees made honey which we harvested, extracted, bottled, and now sell. We make candles from the beeswax from the hives. We also make two different salves.


Abigail’s honey (left) won second place in the youth honey category at the Iowa State Fair and Bethany’s honey (right) won third place in the same category.

We asked the Sanders to come over and check our hives to see if they were still doing good.


Mrs. Julie helped Olivia while Mr. Mike helped Abigail and Bethany.

By July 21st, we had five hives and three of the hives had supers on them.


Mom (left) is beginning to check her hive. Bethany (middle) is inspecting her bottom super. Abigail (right) is looking at a honey frame.

We extracted our honey with the Sanders as we did not have our own extractor.


Bethany is cutting the cappings off a honey frame.

Our beeswax candles are made from 100% beeswax. We love making them.


This is what our candle set up looks like.

We bottled and labeled all of the honey in August. It was a lot of work, but it was fun to see the process coming along.


Abigail is pouring the honey into the bottles. The bottle sat directly on a scale so that we could fill them all to a similar weight.

Mom, Abigail, Bethany, and Olivia all entered multiple things in the apiary category of the Iowa State Fair. We did quite well at the fair. All four of us won at least one ribbon.


Abigail’s honey frame won sixth place in the adult category.

Abigail, Bethany, Miriam, and Olivia all worked the Iowa Honey Producers Association’s booth at the Iowa State Fair. It was really fun to work the state fair.


Bethany worked the cosmetic counter at the IHPA booth.

Our local beekeeping group is the Des Moines Backyard Beekeepers group. The DMBB’s August meeting was about winter prep.

Plantain salve is great for bug bites, scratches, and bee stings. We wanted to make some because we often get stung while checking the bees.


The plantain salve is only plantain steeped in coconut oil and beeswax.

Mr. Mike helped us do mite rolls so that we could find out how many varroa mites were in our hive. We treated the hives for varroa mites in September of last year.


Mr. Mike collects bees in a jar to check for mites.

We treated for varroa mites using Apiguard immediately following pulling off the supers. We tried multiple treatments for small hive beetles, but only swiffer sheets worked.

Beeswax lib balm is amazing. It really improves how one’s lips feel. Abigail loves making beeswax lip balm.


Our two little brothers “helped” Abigail make a lip balm tube holder.

In our blog post Treating for Varroa Mites, we explain why we choose the treatment we choose.

We checked our bees after treatment to see how strong they were. Based on this hive check, we decided to feed the hives sugar syrup.


We all checked our own hives to make sure they had a queen and had brood.

The Central Iowa Beekeepers Associations September meeting was at the
Dr. Amy Toth Lab Bee Field Station, in Ames, Iowa. It was an incredibly informative meeting.


The researches at Iowa State are studying pollen from year to year along with many other things.

To prepare the bees for winter, we fed them.


Abigail pouring sugar syrup into a feeder.

Winter boxes help prevent moisture from dripping on the bees as well as provide room for mountain camping.


Abigail created trenches in the winter boxes to allow for ventilation.

Every year the Iowa Honey Producers Association has a conference. The conferences are always filled with information. We were able to attend most of the first day of the conference.

Abigail received her certificate of completion of the IHPA Youth Scholarship Program on the second day of the IHPA Conference.


Mr Mike and Abigail both received certificates of completion of the IHPA Youth Scholarship Program. Mr. Sander as a mentor and Abigail as the student.

Abigail gave a presentation at the Iowa Honey Producers Conference during the Youth Scholarship Luncheon. She shared about her first year of beekeeping.


Here is Abigail giving her presentation.

Our first year of beekeeping has been awesome. We have really enjoyed learning about the bees and growing our apiary. We are looking forward to continuing our adventure.


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