Seeing a Queen at Our Squash Hives

We moved splits from our house to a neighbor’s who was down the road from us we moved the boxes with queen cells and waited for the queens to emerge.

Here is Bethany and Abigail looking through the first hive.


Bethany and Abigail were actively flipping the frames.


Here is a picture of the queen! Can you also spot a drone?


It is always exciting to see a queen but is extra exciting to see the queen for her very first time.

The hives are still doing great. Those two queens are awesome!


Moving Hives to a Second Location

In mid June, we moved two of the splits that we made with the Des Moines Backyard Beekeepers to a second location. The second location is in our neighborhood. It is a really convenient location for us.

Both splits were one deep hives when we took them to the second location. We simply closed them up using an entrance reducer, ratchet strapped them tightly, and carried the deeps to the car. We then drove to the second location (the squash yard). We then put down cinder blocks for the boxes to sit on and leveled the blocks. After the blocks were level, we put the hives on top of them. We added a deep to both of the hives and fed the hives 1:1 sugar syrup.


A second location allows us to keep more hives.


IHPA Summer Field Day 2019

Every summer the Iowa Honey Producers Association has a field day. The summer field day often includes hands on demonstrations. This year IHPA and CIBA put the field day on together. It was held at the Iowa State University Horticulture Farm.

After we got our name tags and agendas, we started helping. Olivia, Bethany, and Mom collected people’s desserts and put them where they belonged. Abigail handed out agendas.


After welcome and announcements, the first speaker was Ginny Mitchel. Ginny Mitchel is the 2019 Iowa State Fair apiary division judge. She spoke on What You Need to Know about Entering Items into the State Fair. First Ginny explained why someone would want to enter the state fair. The number one reason someone would want to enter the state fair i because it is fun! (And you can earn a little cash.) Entering honey in the state fair also represents beekeeping in Iowa because thousands of people walk by the IHPA booth at the state fair. A full honey display creates a great opportunity to educate the public about honey. In order to enter honey in the state fair, one must have honey to enter into the state fair. Last year (2018), we had honey in July so we harvested, extracted, bottled it, and entered it in the state fair. This year (2019), we did not get any honey so we did not enter honey in the state fair. If a beekeeper is planning on entering honey in the state fair, he or she must be extra careful when removing it. If he or she uses Bee Go (or other scented methods) or smoke, he or she must be careful not to use too much. A honey judge has a pallet that can detect the slightest amount of non-honey substance. How honey is extracted does not matter if it is to be entered in the state fair. State fair honey should be dealt specially. It should be warmed up a little bit so that it does not have any crystals in it. It should be strained through multiple metal strainers. It should be strained through the biggest sizes first and the smallest size last. State fair honey should always be put in a clean bucket. State fair honey should be strained through the foot of a nylon when it is poured into the final jar. When putting the honey in the final jar, the jar should not be filled all the way. The almost full jar should sit for 24 hours. After 24 hours, the bubbles at the top of the honey should be popped and seran wrap should be used to remove the foam. The honey should then sit for another 24 hours before being filled all the way. Ginny then discussed some of the common problems that arise with certain jars. Honey bear jars tend to be prone to bubbles. Queenline jars should always be topped with a plastic lid without a seal so that the judge can open each jar easily. The most perfect jars should always be chosen.


Here is Ginny Mitchel looking at a jar of honey.

Next, Finny Michel talked about baskets. Baskets are all about the appeal (Is someone going to want to buy this basket?) never on the individual products. Although Ginny did say she likes to try out all the products. Non of the products can have identifying marks unless they are from some other apiary.


Here is one of the baskets Ginny used as examples. The vice president of IHPA put these baskets together.

Comb honey is another product that can be entered in the state fair. Comb honey can only comb from a robust hive. Comb honey can be made by putting three deeps worth of bees in one deep then adding a comb honey super the following day. Comb honey frames must be perfectly placed and perfectly clean in order for the bees to make perfect comb honey. Two days after putting the comb honey super on, the beekeeper should go back and check to see how much beeswax the bees have built. The comb honey should be pulled of the hive as soon as it is capped so that the cappings do not get dirty. Bee Go should never be used when comb honey is harvested. A beekeeper must be careful not to tip comb honey frames. A helpful tip Ginny gave is to make a plexi-glass template for cutting comb honey. This will make sure that every comb honey is the exact same size. The piece of comb honey should fit snuggly inside the box. A parring knife should be used to cut the comb honey. Keeping the knife in warm water when not in use helps make it easier to cut the comb honey. One must be careful not to crack the cappings when cutting comb honey. Honey should be allowed to drain and then it should sit for two weeks. After it has sat, it should be stored in the freezer.

Chunk honey is very similar to comb honey. One must have both comb honey and liquid honey in order to enter chunk honey. Chunk honey is liquid honey that has a chunk of comb honey in it. The liquid honey should be harvest, extracted, and bottled as stated above. The comb honey should be processed as stated above for chunk honey. The scrapes from comb honey work great for chunk honey.

Creamed honey can also be entered in the state fair. The honey that is going to be turned into creamed honey should be treated just like the liquid honey that is going to be entered in the state fair. The started used to make cream honey should be as nice as the honey one wants to enter in the fair. Creamed honey should be made according to the normal method. We blog about how to make creamed honey here. Creamed honey should be checked regularly and all foam should be removed.

Next, Ginny Mitchel discussed candles for the state fair. Here is our tutorial on making beeswax candles. If the candles being entered are going to be container candles, Ginny said to only use glass. Any candle entered in the state fair should not have any pollen, propolis, or signs of shrinkage. Wax should never be bleached for state fair candles. If the candle is not coming out of the mold well, the mold with the candle in it should be put on ice. If the candle develops a white substance on the outside, it should be rubbed with a nylon.


Olivia is rubbing one of the candles we brought for Ginny to “judge” with a nylon to restore its shine.

Following Ginny Mitchel, Melissa Burdick spoke on Trees for Bees. She talked about all kinds of trees and shrubs that are great for bees. When choosing trees to plant for bees, one should consider when they bloom, how winter hardy they are, if they are native or not, and if they have some characteristics that may not be desirable.


Here is Melissa Burdick speaking about the best types of trees for honey bees.

After Melissa Burdick spoke, we had lunch and then the IHPA Honey Queen spoke about her recent activities.

The first break out sessions we participated in was a queen marking demonstration led by Pat Ennis. Both Bethany and I marked a drone. We used drones because unlike queens they are not worth forty dollars each. To mark the drone you had to first grab him by his wings. Then you pinched all his legs with you thumb and first finger. Finally, you used one of the special pens to mark the back of his thorax.

After marking drones, we went to the break out sessions about mite count methods led my Randall Cass. He showed the alcohol, powdered sugar, and ether roll version of the mite count. As we have only ever done the alcohol roll, it was a great way to see how the other two are done.

The next break out session was a hive inspection with the state apiarist Andy Joseph. He just simply walked the group through how he inspects a hive.

Following the break out sessions two of the researchers talked about their work with prairie strips.

After the prairie stips there was an expert panel Q&A. The panel consisted of Phil Ebert and Curt Bronnenburg (two commercial beekeepers), Andy Joseph (the state apiarist), and Randall Cass (a researcher at ISU). The panel was asked whether or not they use queen excluders, how they harvest honey, the difference between reversing boxes and spliting, how to prepare for winter, what causes swarms, pollen pattys, varroa mites being a huge issue right now, EFB, among a couple other things. Note: If you would like to learn more about some of these subjects, I have linked one of our blog posts were we talk about them. It was interesting to hear how the commercial beekeepers and researcher beekeepers treat their hives differently from a hobbyist beekeeper.

Finally, Andy Joseph talked about the state of the Iowa Honey Bees. The bees went into winter after a bad fall. Our winter was hard on the bees. The mortality rate was around 60%. The spring was wet and late. This years spring was perfect for EFB. However, the bees look surprisingly decent for the weather. Varroa mite loads have been relatively low.

The IHPA Summer Field Day was a great day of learning. The speakers were excellent. Ginny Mitchel was our favorite speaker.


Story Time at the East Side Library

On June 6th, I (Abigail) led story time at the East Side branch of the Des Moines Public Library. First, I introduced myself.

Here I am reading the book Little Bee by Edward Gibbs. After reading this book, I asked the children why a hunter (from the book) would run from a little bee. The answer is because the little bee might sting the hunter. I then explained why honey bees sting. Honey bees might sting because they are scared or angry.


After explaining why a honey bee might sting a human, I read the book Bee Dance by Rick Chrustowski. This book talks about why honey bees do the waggle dance. After reading the book, the children acted out the waggle dance. They found flowers around the room then went back to where they were sitting and did the waggle dance. Eventually, the waggle dance turned into twirling.


Finally, I showed them some of the frame from my teaching hive. I showed them the life cycle of a honey bee and a honey bee pollinating a flower. After story time was over, the children got to plant autumn joy in little planters to take home and color bee themed pictures.

I loved leading story time. It is one of my favorite programs I have developed.


June 6th Adventures in our Hives

Beekeeping is full of adventures including replacing queens, harvesting honey, and treating for mites. In late May, we caged the queen from Abigail’s sick hive and put her in my queenless hive.

Here is Abigail scraping off wacky comb. Wacky comb is comb the bees built where the beekeeper does not want it built.


Here is the queen cage with workers who wandered into the cage.


Can you spot the queen in this picture?


What about this picture? Can you spot the queen?


Here is Abigail pouring sugar syrup into a feeder to help the bees fight diseases and pests in the hive.


Look at that brood that is what you want to see with a good queen.


Olivia looking for eggs with the sun over her shoulder.


Can you spot any eggs? There are two in this picture that can be seen. Remember, eggs look like grains of rice.


Look at the fat drone. He has the giant eyes.


Abigail is “painting” the sugar syrup on the foundation to encourage the bees to build comb on the foundation.


Here is mom pouring sugar syrup in her hive.


Here is Olivia closing up her hive. Notice Abigail’s hive (to the left of Olivia’s hive) is closed up with duct tape. We were still in the process of euthanizing them.


We fed our hives to encourage them to build up.


Inspecting the Hives with the State Apiarist

On May 29th, the state apiarist checked our bees with us. We asked him to come over because Abigail was concerned that her hive was sick. The state apiarist’s job is to inspect hives when asked to, to inspect hives coming into Iowa, and to inspect hives or equipment before the hives or equipment are sold.

He looked at Abigail’s hive first. He knew immediately that the hive was sick.


Here he is showing us a frame with sick brood on it. He is explaining what to look for when trying to identify disease.


The brood in Abigail’s hive had some signs of European Foulbrood and some signs of American Foulbrood. American Foulbrood (AFB) is much worse then European Foulbrood (EFB) because it produces spores that can last in the equipment for seventy years.


The state apiarist looked through the whole hive. By the end of the hive inspection, he was not sure if the bees had AFB or EFB. He took a sample of the diseased brood to send to the USDA lab for testing.


One of the signs that a hive has AFB is if the dead bee ropes. The rope test is done by inserting a stick or toothpick into a brood cell with a dead bee in it. the stick is then swirled in the cell and pulled out. If the bee is stretched so that it looks like it is a rope, the hive most likely has AFB. Some of the dead brood roped and others did not in our sick hive. The state apiarist was very confused about our hive.


The state apiarist suggested euthanizing Abigail’s hive to prevent the bees from infecting the other hives at our house. We euthanized them by closing up the hive completely.

Next, the state apiarist checked Bethany’s hive to see if it was infected.


The hive had no signs of EFB or AFB, but it did have a still uncapped queen cell that we had put in the hive. The bees had not allowed the queen to emerge and we have no idea why.


The state apiarist suggested giving Bethany’s hive the queen from Abigail’s sick hive. This would not infect Bethany’s hive because the queen rarely carries an infection that the hive has.

Next, we looked at Maylyn. Maylyn was doing great. They were still working on raising a queen.


The next hive we inspected was Olivia’s hive. They were also doing great.


Next, we checked the nuc with the queen in it. They were doing good. The queen had a beautiful laying pattern.


The other nuc that we had put a queen cell in had signs of EFB. This nuc had also not allowed their queen in the queen cell to emerge. We euthanized this hive as well.

The other split we had made was doing great as well. The queen was laying and the bees were very busy.

The state apiarist commended us on preventing what we suspected was disease from spreading. We washed our suits, washed our gloves with rubbing alcohol, and cleaned our hive tools by putting them in the smoker. All of this helps prevent the disease from spreading to other hives in the apiary.

The results from the USDA were that the hive had EFB. At this point, we looked into getting medicine to treat the other hives, but we could not find a vet to work with us to get the medicine so the hives remained untreated.


Hosting the Des Moines Backyard Beekeepers – May 2019

On May 23rd, we hosted the Des Moines Backyard Beekeepers at our house to do splitting demonstrations. It was, unfortunately, a cloudy day, but we went into the hives because we had already rescheduled the meeting once. We split Olivia hives by removing the queen and we split Mom’s hive by using the walk away method.

We had quite a large amount of beekeepers at our house.


Mom and Bethany started inspecting Olivia’s hive while Abigail checked her hive.


Abigail was surprised by the small number of bees in her hive. The population should have grown after it recovered from the chilled brood.


Here Abigail is showing two beekeepers the sick looking brood in her hive.


Abigail was certain that her bees were sick. She suspected European Foulbrood the be culprit of the population decline.


Abigail looked into the bottom box because she wanted to make sure that there were signs of disease in that box.


Olivia’s hive was doing great! The queen had an absolutely beautiful laying pattern.


Mom found the queen then put the frame she was on in the nuc. The bees in the hive would then make a new queen.


Here is everyone trying to spot the queen.


We did not have very much drawn comb so we put an empty frame in with the queen split. The bees would build out the frames in the coming months.


Mom put two frames of brood and a good resource frame in the queen split.


We put the queen nuc by the garage so that the bees would re-orientate to their new home.


Here is Abigail starting to open Maylyn. Maylyn is a three year old hive. Maylyn already had a super on it in May!


We demonstrated how to do a walk away split with Maylyn.


We made sure that there was brood in both deep boxes. The top box has beautiful frames of brood.


The bottom box also had brood in it.


We moved the top box (with the queen in it) to by the garage so that the bees would re-orientate to their new location.


We transferred some of the frames in a nuc because the box was too heavy for us to carry.


Here Bethany is putting the frames in the nuc back in the deep.


Abigail put the super back on the deep at the back of the yard. We let the bees have three weeks to raise a new queen.


Here is Abigail closing up Maylyn.


We now had one strong two deep hive. We wanted to let the bees build up before giving them a super.

We had a two deep, queenless hive. We gave them three weeks to raise a queen.

We had a sick two deep plus a super hive. We called the state apiarist and asked him to come out and look at it.

We had a one deep plus a super queenless hive. We gave them three weeks to raise a queen. We left the super on so that they would not fill the bottom box with honey.

We had a one deep hive. We watched them carefully and gave them more room when they needed it.

And we had a nuc that we also watched carefully and added more room when they needed it.


Painting New Nucs

As you grow your beekeeping business you need more supplies including. In May, we got more unpainted nucs. We were planning on making a lot of splits this year so getting new nucs was important because we wanted to use nucs to make the splits. Nucs are five framed boxes with a bottom board already built in.

Here is Bethany and Abigail diligently painting nuc boxes a lovely pink (or purple, as Abigail would say).


More painting. As you can see we use red disposable cup for pouring our paint into. We refill as needed. Also notice our piles of frames. We still hadn’t cleaned our garage completely from the Central Iowa Beekeeper Association’s auction.


We do not paint a lot but when we do we make our own little party out of it.