Removing Supers from the Squash Hives

Around the beginning to middle of August in Iowa, the nectar flow was coming to an end. Right after the honey flow is over you take off your honey supers and start treating the bees. All treatments take a certain amount of time to be completed and most need to be done in a certain temperature.

First we looked through our supers to see if there was any honey to harvest. We worked as a team going through one hive at a time so it would be easier to clear all the bees off any frames we would want to harvest.



We also carefully examined the frames to make sure that the frames had no brood on them. If they did have brood on them, we would have to decide whether to keep the frames in the boxes and either wait to treat the bees or treat the frames and not use them for honey or we could take the frames out and kill the brood.



Abigail (wearing the orange gloves) Is taking off burr comb. While Bethany is scraping off cross comb. Burr comb is comb built where the beekeeper does not want it. Cross comb is comb that is built the wrong way on the frame.



We decided to wait another week to hope for a late honey flow. Here Abigail is picking up her supper boxes and looking to see if there are any honey frames.



Abigail is now looking for eggs or her queen in the hives deep box.



Bethany is making sure her frames are spaced properly. After you have drawn out super frames, you keep nine frames in the super rather then the usual ten.



Sometimes the honey flow is early or late depending on the year and nectar sources. As a beekeeper, you try to keep ahead of it. Unfortunately, last years honey flow was late and we were unable to harvest any honey.

Bethany

A Second Year of Beekeeping in Review – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Beekeeping is a roller coaster of good, bad, and, honestly, ugly experiences. Some years are perfect! Others, not so much. Last year had a lot of learning experiences despite some of the challenges we faced.

Note: All the links throughout this post go to our blog posts on each topic.

The Good

At the beginning of 2019, we had four hives come out of winter. Last year, we expanded to a second location. We placed two hives on a distant neighbors property. The bees at the second location did well. Mom’s hive survived summer. All three hives went into winter strong.



One of the highlights for me was being the Central Iowa Honey Queen. I was able to give twenty-four presentations and attend fourteen events. As always the Iowa State Fair is a highlight of our year. Bethany, Miriam, Olivia, and I volunteered at the Iowa Honey Producers Association’s booth at the State Fair. I was able to give presentations and assist other queens with presentation during the Iowa State Fair. We also entered in many of the apiary categories.



At the end of the year, I was crowned the 2020 Iowa Honey Queen.



The Bad

We had a very rough year last year. Between a wet spring, small hive beetles, and European Foulbrood, we lost two hives and many nucs. We even had hives abscond on us.



Because of the many challenges we faced, we were unable to harvest any honey.

This year, we will be feeding the bees to help prevent disease. We have also been using swiffer pads to try to get rid of small hive beetles.

The Ugly

The worst part of last year was when the state apiarist confirmed that my hive had European Foulbrood. We, unfortunately, were not able to save the bees.



Cleaning up after EFB was pretty gross. We ended up throwing away many of the frames.



Summary

Spring and summer were hard for us since many of our hives died. We missed not getting honey. We did learn a lot about beekeeping throughout the year. We hope to have a better year this year.

I enjoyed being the Central Iowa Honey Queen. I am excited to be the Iowa Honey Queen and have used many of the things I learned as Central Iowa Honey Queen.

Abigail

Entering the Iowa State Fair

For the past few years, we have entered apiary products in the Iowa State Fair. It is not only a way to show off what we have learned about honey and beeswax, but also a way to fill the Iowa Honey Producers Association’s booth. In 2019, we entered in more categories then we did the year before.

Besides entering exhibits in the apiary category, my beeswax basket was selected to represent Polk County at the Iowa State Fair. It won a blue ribbon at the Iowa State Fair.



Some of us entered wet frames. Wet frames are honey frames that the honey has been extracted out of. I placed fifth in wet frames.



Mom entered honey frames. She placed third.



Because we did not get honey, Bethany, Olivia, and I entered photos. I received first place in beekeeping photography (far right). Bethany placed third in youth photography (far left). Olivia’s photo is in the middle.



Bethany’s other photo placed fifth in beekeeping photos.



Bethany, Olivia, Elianna, and I entered molded beeswax candles. Bethany placed first. Elianna placed second in the youth category. Olivia placed third. I did not place at all.

Mom, Olivia, and I entered dipped beeswax candles. Mom placed second in this category. I placed third. Olivia placed fourth.

Mom, Olivia, and I entered in beeswax art. Mom placed third. I placed fifth. Olivia placed sixth.



I tried my hand at a window display. My window display was a variation of my Helping Honey Bees Presentation. I placed third in window displays.



Bethany entered a basket in the State Fair. Her basket theme was “For a Special Drone”. She learned how to make fire starters and used many of our other products in her basket. Bethany placed third for her basket.

Working on projects for the Iowa State Fair and entering them is always a highlight of summer for us. We enjoy competing against each other to see who does best. We are thankful for the opportunity to grow and learn through the Iowa State Fair.

Abigail

Working the IHPA Booth at the Iowa State Fair

For the past few years, us girls have spent some time at the Iowa State Fair volunteering at the Iowa Honey Producers Association’s booth. 2019 was no different.

Before the State Fair, Mom, Miriam, Olivia, and I helped by folding shirts. Many of the shirts we folded were sold at the State Fair.



On the first day of the State Fair, Bethany and Miriam worked the candle rolling station.



I worked the observation hives. I was able to share about honey bees to fair -goers.



Olivia, not surprisingly, worked the sample table on the first day. Do you think she ate more samples than she handed out?



Bethany and I worked the second day of the State Fair. Bethany worked a cash register and I worked the candle rolling station.

On Monday of the State Fair, Bethany, Miriam, and Olivia worked the booth.

On Tuesday of the State Fair, Bethany filled cups with ice. These cups were then filled with the amazing honey lemonade.



On the second Thursday of the State Fair, I once again worked the candle rolling stations. All the money raised at the candle rolling station goes to the Honey Queen Program so that the honey queen can travel around the state to educate on honey bees, beekeeping, and the products of the hive.



Our friend, Joanna, was a 2019 IHPA Youth Scholarship Recipient. She worked the state fair on the second Thursday. She and Miriam were put in charge of selling honey lemonade.



On the second Friday, I once again worked the candle rolling station.



Bethany and Olivia sold honey lemonade.



We enjoyed working the booth, meeting new people, and hanging out with friends.

Abigail

Presenting at the Iowa State Fair

Throughout the Iowa State Fair, I was able to give five presentations and assist with six presentations.

The very first day of the Iowa State Fair I presented on beeswax. Olivia helped by dressing up as the Buzz the Bee.



I was able to promote Iowa honey, beeswax products, and other beehive products in my presentation. I also answered questions from the audience.



Olivia dressed up as Buzz the Bee for every presentation she could.



On Monday of the State Fair, I presented my Helping Honey Bees presentation in the 4-H building. I received a Certificate of Merit for my presentation.



On Tuesday of the State Fair, the 2019 American Honey Queen, Hannah Sjostrom, visited. I interviewed on The Big Show with her. She led a cooking with honey presentation and a basics of honey bees presentation. The North Iowa Honey Queen, Veronica, and the Iowa Honey Queen, Brooklyn, also assisted Hannah.



Here is Hannah giving her honey bee presentation. Hannah used the teaching tools to tell a story about the making of honey.



I explained what a beekeeper’s tools are and how they are used.



It was a privilege to meet Hannah and learn from her. (Left to right in the picture below are Bethany, Veronica, Hannah, myself, Brooklyn, and Olivia in the front)



On Wednesday, I assisted the Friendly Beekeepers of Iowa Honey Queen, Emma, with two cooking with honey demonstrations. Emma writes regular cooking with honey articles in the Iowa Honey Producers Association’s newsletter.

On the second Thursday of the State Fair, I assisted the State Apiarist, Andy Joseph, with a presentation. Mom and Dad were at the State Fair and stopped by for the presentation.

On the second Friday of the State Fair, I presented my Helping Honey Bees presentation.

My final presentations were on the final Saturday of the State Fair. I led two honey bee story times with help from the Southwest Iowa Honey Queen, JoAnn and a fellow beekeeper. After leading story times, state fair-goers were able to play honey bee themed games and do honey bee themed crafts. We, of course, handed out lots of honey sticks.

Presenting at the Iowa State Fair was a great opportunity for me to educate about honey bees, beekeeping, and the products of the hive while growing as a speaker. I learned from my fellow honey queens as well.

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

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

Checking the Squash Hives and Adding Supers

On July 9th, we inspected our hives at our Squash Yard. One of the hives already had two supers on it. The other one would most likely need supers added to it.

The homeowner at our squash hives put a bird bath out for the bees. She put rocks in the water so that the bees would not drown.

IMG_0856


It is a really beautiful way to provide water for the bees.

IMG_0861


Here we are beginning the hive inspection. Bethany is looking in her hive’s supers. They had not done much in the supers yet. Abigail is still putting her gloves on.

IMG_0864


Abigail’s bees had quite a few frames to build out. That is why they did not get supers put on as quickly as Bethany’s hive got supers.

IMG_0867


Bethany’s hive had lots of young pupae. We know they are young because of the light colored cappings.

IMG_0869


Both Bethany and Abigail inspected the bottom boxes of their hives. Both queens laid lots of brood.

IMG_0870


The squash hives were building up nicely. We added two supers to Abigail’s hive. We decided to add two supers at once because the supers had filled out frames. Because the bees do not have to make beeswax, they are able to work harder at making honey.

IMG_0873


Fun Fact: Before Bethany straps her hive down she takes of her suit. She does this because she gets really hot in her suit.

IMG_0875


The squash hives seemed to be doing really good. We were excited to see how they would continue to grow.

Abigail