Sometimes There Is Nothing You Can Do

We try to inspect our hives every week to every other week in the spring in summer. Unfortunately, sometimes something awful happens to the bees during a week and there is no way to fix it.

Here I am closing up Mom’s hive. Mom’s hive is doing wonderful. The rest of the nucs at our house were not doing so great.



Here I am inspecting the nuc up by the garage. The nuc had no bees left in it. The bees had not raised a viable queen so they died.



There wasn’t even a handful of bees left in the nuc. We froze the frames to prevent bugs from moving in and put the nuc box away in the garage.



This nuc died due to queen failure which was probably in part due to small hive beetles and the time of year (late August).

Abigail

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

Hive Inspection August 10th

On August 10th, we inspected all of our backyard bees. At the beginning of the inspection, we had two nucs, a full hive with one super, and a swarm trap that caught an abscond.

In this picture, Mom is inspecting her hive and I am checking the nuc of bees we combined. Mom’s hive did not fill its super with honey. We think they were not strong enough to do so because we took brood frames from the hive in early spring to help our other hives.



The nuc combined well, but was still incredibly weak.



Our swarm trap at our house caught Olivia’s hive that absconded. When a hive absconds, they leave their home because of poor conditions. After it was in the swarm trap for about a week, we put it in a nuc.



Olivia’s hive likely absconded due to the small hive beetles that were in their hive.



I only moved the frames the bees were actually on into the nuc.



We gave the nuc other drawn out comb.



We were hopeful that Mom’s hive would do well over the winter. The nucs needed to grow significantly before they had a chance of winter survival.

Abigail

Combining Two Nucs

In August, we combined two weak nucs. We combined the hives to give them a better chance of surviving the winter.

This is one of the splits that we combined. It was weak because of small hive beetles that overran the hive.



Here are the bees trying to crawl through the opening after we combined the hive. Eventually all the bees orientated to the new hive.



We gave them an upper entrance as well so that the upper box bees would not get too confused.



The newspaper helps prevent the bees from fighting each other. By the time the bees chewed through the newspaper, the bees are used to each other.



The bees got used to each other quickly. They did not grow well, however. More to come in a future blog post.

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