Adding a Queen to the Science Center of Iowa’s Observation Hive

In 2019, the Science Center of Iowa started a honey bee exhibit. The exhibit started out with one observation hive. Because beekeeping is such a specialized skill, the Science Center wanted to have a volunteer beekeeper to work with the bees. Mom and I are the main volunteer beekeepers for the Science Center, but Bethany and Olivia often help.

When I first visually inspected the observation hive, I noticed that they were queenless. The Science Center employ in charge of the exhibit ordered a new queen and we installed her in late July. In the picture below, we are deciding where to put the queen cage.



Here I am pressing the queen cage into the bottom frame where most of the bees are. I was careful to make sure she could still get out.



The worker bees quickly smelled the queen’s pheromones and started accepting her.



We closed the observation hive. The bees on top of the cage had to move out of the way.



The bees accepted this queen and started building up for winter. It was interesting working with an observation hive.

Abigail

Petting an “Swarm”

In July, one of our hives absconded from their home. When honey bees abscond, they have decided their old home is unsatisfactory and will go find a new one. Unfortunately when you catch an abscond it often will just abscond again.

We considered catching this abscond, but the wire on the post they choose to land on would have made it difficult.



Absconds, like swarms, are very gentle and can be touched. Mom still suited up and wore gloves to pet them.



Bethany petted the swarm with her bare hand.



I also petted the abscond. I was not going to let this opportunity pass me by.



Our five year old brother fearlessly petted the swarm. We were not surprised as he often stands less then two feet from a hive entrance to observe the bees.



Our other younger brother also petted the swarm after the littlest one did.



In this picture you can see the queen bee separating herself from the cluster of bees. Her attendant bees followed her to take care of her.



Can you spot the queen in this picture? She returned to her cluster and allowed the bees to cover her.



Below is a video we took of the abscond. Click on the image to watch it. Enjoy the random commentary.

MVI_1832

The abscond found a home somewhere other then our equipment. We decided to let the bees decide where their new home would be because they were an abscond not a swarm.

Abigail

2019 Warren County Fair

On July 26th, Bethany and I volunteered at the Friendly Beekeepers of Iowa booth at the Warren County Fair. We spent the day sharing about honey bees with fair-goers.

The Friendly Beekeepers of Iowa had an observation hive with bees in it at their booth. This gave me a great opportunity to help people find the queen, spot brood, and see real honey comb.



Bethany also used the observation hive to educate about honey bees.



The booth also had a real honey vs. fake honey taste test, honey bee quiz game, and posters about honey bees. I learned that another name for a worker bee’s pollen basket is corbicula. Bethany and I loved the opportunity to educate about honey bees.

Abigail

Checking Olivia’s Hive and the Nuc

During July we had been keeping a steady eye on our hives because of the strange brood and rapidly decreasing numbers in our hives. During July, the hives really should have been growing!

Below Abigail and Olivia are just starting to check there hives.



Here is a picture of the weird brood we were seeing. You can see punctured cells and you can also see hive beetle larvae on this frame.



Here you can see sunken capped cells. You can also see a dead emerging bee.



Here you can see lots of hive beetle larvae they are the little white/cream colored things sliding over the cell walls.



Here is a frame of mostly empty with a little bit of pollen in the middle.



Here is the bottom board of Olivia’s hive! Look at all the dead bees.



Below is a picture of brood. you can clearly see the holes in many of the cells.



This is a picture of almost all the bees left in the hive. You can tell the numbers have not grown.



Here is a lot of the rest of the bees in the hive. You can see the queen and her worn yellow dot in the corner.



With strange looking brood and dwindling numbers we have to decide what steps to take to help these hive survive to and through winter.

Bethany Kelly

Iowa Honey Producers Association’s Booth at RAGBRAI 2019

On July 23rd, Olivia and I worked the Iowa Honey Producer Association’s (IHPA) booth at RAGBRAI. RAGBRAI is an event were cyclist cycle across the state. There are selected stops across the way. One of the stops was at Howell’s Greenhouse and Pumpkin Patch. The IHPA booth had a observation hive, educational hand outs, and honey lemonade!

Before the cyclist started arriving, we helped tape together honey styxs.



Olivia showed cyclist’s where the queen was in the observation hive. I also enjoyed using the observation hive to educate cyclists.



This event was a great opportunity for me to represent my club.



Howell’s Greenhouse and Pumpkin Patch has goats! Olivia got in the pen with them and played with them before we left. Good thing she did not come home with one.



It was a lot of fun for us to share our love of honey bees with people from all around the county.

Abigail

July 2019 CIBA Meeting

July 20th was the Central Iowa Beekeepers Association’s (CIBA) Summer Field Day. In the morning, Andy Joseph gave a tour of his apiary and I activities for kids back at the venue. We then had a potluck lunch. Finally, some of the board members demonstrated their extraction tools.

In the field, we got to watch Andy Joseph (the state apiarist) go through his many hives. He showed us frames and explained them. He also told us about different diseases and pests that can be in bee hives. It is always fun to learn about bees and especially from an expert. It was also a treat to have our Dad and siblings come who are often not able to come to these meetings. – Bethany

While Bethany was out in the field learning about inspecting, I stayed back at the venue to give Honey Bee Story Time and Honey Bee Jeopardy. I have led Honey Bee Story Time before at the East Side Library. I often play Honey Bee Jeopardy at my grade school age programs. I developed it to use as a review. -Abigail



After everyone returned for the field, there was a demonstration on how to extract using a variety of methods. Cappings can be cut off using a bread knife, hot knife, or uncapping machine. We prefer the bread knife as it is inexpensive and runs a low risk of burning the honey. The different size extractors were also demonstrated. The smallest extractor is a two frame manual extractor. This extractor is powered my muscle and is a good option for a beginning beekeeper. A larger electric extractor was also used. An electric extractor is pricier, but a lot easier to use. Many electric extractors have issues with shacking. It is important to keep this in mind when looking to purchase an extractor. -Abigail

-Abigail and Bethany

Helping Honey Bees at the Polk County Fair

At the Polk County Fair, I gave a presentation entitled Helping Honey Bees as the Central Iowa Honey Queen. This presentation is about how anyone can help honey bees.

Honey bees have become trendy recently and many people are wondering how they can help honey bees (and other pollinators) without becoming a beekeeper. Three big ways to help honey bees are to plant pollinator friendly plants that are in bloom from April to October; to stop using pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides; and to support a local beekeeper.

Planting pollinator friendly plants that are in bloom from April to October helps honey bees because it provides forage for the bees throughout their period of activity. Dandelions are the honey bee’s first food. Allow the dandelions to bloom in your yard. Other early spring plants are crocuses, maple trees, and fruit trees. Late fall plants are important because the bees need to have the resources to build up for winter. Goldenrod, sedum, and asters are great fall plants.

One of the visual aids I brought was a sedum from our yard for my presentation.



Not using pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides helps honey bees because helps prevent the bees bring these chemicals back to their hive. There are many cases of pesticide, fungicide, herbicide, or insecticide honey bee colony deaths especially in states where crops are major industries. What about farmers whose livelihoods are dependent upon pesticide, fungicide, herbicide and insecticide sprayed crops? There is a surprisingly simple solution. Farmers should find out if any of their neighbors have beehives and then they should call them the day before they spray. The beekeeper will then close up their hives for a day. Farmers can also spray between dusk and dawn when the bees are less active. This prevents the bees from being sprayed and helps prevent the bees from picking up chemicals off of flowers.

Supporting a local beekeeper helps honey bees because honey bees are directly affected. Anyone can support a local beekeeper by buying their local honey, beeswax, and other beehive products. The beekeeper is then able to put the money he or she earns back into their honey bees and their business. By buying from a local beekeeper, you are showing that you support honey bees. Supporting a local beekeeper not only helps the honey bees and the beekeeper, but it also helps the consumer and the economy. It helps the consumer because when the consumer and the beekeeper have a good relationship the consumer will know they are getting what they are paying for. Much of the honey in stores is either ultra-filtered honey or it is not even honey. Ultra-filtered honey is honey that has been filtered to the point where all the beneficial pollen has been removed. Pollen is what makes honey an excellent way to reduce allergies. Some honey is actually corn syrup or sugar syrup. Corn syrup and sugar syrup are much more inexpensive to produce. Supporting a local beekeeper helps the economy because it encourages a small business.

Anyone can help honey bees by planting pollinator friendly plants that bloom from April to October, by reducing the amount of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides they use, and by supporting a local beekeeper. So how are you going to help the honey bees?

If someone is interested in becoming a beekeeper, they should read books, join a club, and take a beginning beekeeping class. We shared about our favorite books here and here and the Iowa Honey Producers Association has list of Iowa classes and clubs on their website.



After I gave my presentation, I spoke with my judge. I was selected to give my presentation at the Iowa State Fair. I was very excited to be able to share my love of bees once again.

Abigail

Abigail’s Basket of Beeswax Products 4-H Project

One of my 4-H projects was a basic of beeswax products. I learned how to make all of these products in 2018-2019. I decided to learn how to make all these products to utilize the beeswax we removed from the hive. Beeswax has amazing health benefits. Beeswax candles are long burning and burn clean. When they burn, they make the air drop the dirt out off the air allowing it to be cleaned up. Beeswax in creams, salves, and lip balms moisturize and protect the skin. Beeswax based creams, salves, and lip balms are great alternatives to petroleum jelly based cosmetics.

In the basket, there is three molded beeswax candles, two dipped beeswax candles, two lip balms, a plantain salve, and a Mom’s Favorite Body Cream. Each link is to the blog post where we explained how to make each product.



As you can see my basket was selected to represent Polk County at the Iowa State Fair. I was thrilled to see that my project made it to the State Fair.

Abigail

Checking Backyard Hive and Seeing the Queen Bee!

I know you will all see July and say isn’t March. We were having problems with our blog so we got a bit behind. I am happy to announce that we got our blog working and we will be getting back into the swing of things.

Here mom is taking frames out of a nuc in our back yard.



Here is a supper frame with bur comb. You can also see honey on this frame.



Below is a frame of brood. You can see larvae and capped brood. You can also see the queen she has a worn yellow spot on her thorax.



In this picture you can see the queen standing over nectar.



This is another picture of the queen! Spoiler Alert: This Picture also won a fifth place ribbon at the Iowa State Fair!



In this picture you can see eggs (if you look really closely), larvae, and capped brood.



On this frame, you can see pollen. You can tell this frame is older because the comb is much darker then the comb above.



Here is mom looking for eggs. When looking for eggs it is best to have the sun to your back. However in this shady area that can be hard.



Below Abigail is adding a empty frame to Mom’s hive.



Abigail puts “Dassel Acres” and “2019” on this frame so we know what year the frame was put in. We Put “Dassel Acres” on in case we lend out frames or they get stolen.



It is always fun to see a queen and it is even more fun to see a queen and eggs!

Bethany Kelly

Making Dipped Beeswax Candles

As part of my (Abigail’s) 4-H project, I learned how to make dipped beeswax candles. Dipped beeswax candles burn incredibly long.

We bought a large stainless steel coffee pot to melt the beeswax in so that the candles will be tall enough. We melted the wax in a pot of hot water.



The first step is to tie washers to the bottom of the wick. The washers keep the wick straight while they are being dipped.



As the wax was used, the wick had to be dipped farther in the wax.



Every three dips of so, I dipped the candles in water to quickly cook the wax. I also dipped the candles in water at the end because it helped create a smooth outside.



I checked the bottoms of the candles to make sure that excessive wax was not building up on the bottom.



Here is the finished product. Some of the candles turned out great; others were bumpy of tapered the wrong way.



It was fun to learn how to make dipped beeswax candles. I need to practice more in order to produce more consistent candles.

Abigail