Inspecting the Bees in the Spring of 2017

In the spring of 2017, we got to work with Mike and Julie’s honey bees again. We learned even more in 2017 and got to work a little more actively in their hives.


Here is a picture taken in February of 2017. If you look closely at this pictures you’ll see honey bees on the front of both the hives.




Look at the bees flying home or flying away.




You can really see the bees wings in this picture. Bees have two sets of wings. When they fly, the two sets of wings attach together for simultaneous motion.




Look at how many bees are coming and going from just two hives on a warm day in February.




This bee is investigating the rock on top of her hive.


These next photos are from May of 2017. Mike and Julie split one of the hives to create three full sized hives and one nuc. A nuc is a bee box with only five frames inside it.


When you keep bees you need a lot of equipment. Here we are helping Mike and Julie bringing equipment down to where the beehives are.




Here we are preparing to start a hive inspection.




Mike and Julie are each inspecting a hive here. Julie is going to split one of the hives and create a second full sized hive. Mike is making the nuc, the little wood box.




Here we are continuing to inspect the hives. Us girls are helping Mike with his inspection and split.




The front deep box is resting kiddy corner on the covers so that grass does not stick to the bottom of it.




Mike is holding up a frame in this picture. The bees have just started drawing out the comb on this frame.




Mike is showing the frame to Bethany, Abigail, and Olivia.



Mike is showing the other side of the frame to the girls. When inspecting a hive, a beekeeper checks both sides of each frame for eggs or the queen, brood in all stages, and honey and pollen. There is capped brood, larvae, and honey on this side of the frame.




Here we are finishing up the inspection.








Abigail’s Favorite Beekeeping Books

Over the winter of 2016-2017, I read lots of beekeeping books to learn more about honey bees. Reading books about beekeeping is an excellent way to learn about bees. It is also a great way to wait for spring and summer when one can finally work with one’s bees or a friend’s bees. The following books are some of my favorite books I read.


Homegrown Honey Bees : An Absolute Beginners’s Guide to Beekeeping : Your First Year, from Hiving to Honey Harvest by Alethea Morrison. I liked this book because it had lots of colorful pictures and the author shared lots of stories from her first years. This was an excellent book that covers the basics of beekeeping. It followed the author’s first few years of beekeeping. The book, however, is very basic and is not a book that a intermediate or advanced beekeeper would learn something from.


Beekeeping for Dummies by Howard Blackiston. I realize by saying I like this book I am inadvertently calling myself a dummie, but this book was excellent because it covered everything from the basics to more advanced methods.  If you want to read or buy this book I would definitely suggest finding the most recent copy as this book is constantly being updated. I did not like that all the pictures were grouped up in the middle of the book so the book was not very colorful. This book took me a really long time to read and I definitely did not absorb all the information.


Keeping Bees and Making Honey by Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum. I liked this book because it viewed beekeeping from a honey point of view. If you are getting into beekeeping because of the honey this is the book for you. This book even includes honey recipes.


A Short History of the Honey Bee Humans, Flowers, and Bees in the Eternal Chase for Honey by E. Readicker-Henderson. I liked this book because it discussed beekeeping from more of a historical  and scientific point of view and how beekeeping has changed over time. Although I do not agree with some of the authors points of views about history, I still enjoyed reading this book.



Bethany’s Favorite Honey Bee Books

Reading books is not only a great way to learn about bees but is also quite fun. The best time to read is in the winter when you aren’t in the hives and when you aren’t harvesting honey. Here are some of my favorite books that I have read so far.


First Lessons in Beekeeping is one of my favorite books. It is good if you are interested in beekeeping and don’t know much about it. It teaches you what to do and what not to do when starting beekeeping. It teaches you about the tools and what they are there for. This book teaches the basics of beekeeping and is an excellent choice of bee books.


Beekeeping for Dummies  is a good book even though it is very controversial. Even if you don’t agree with every thing in this book there is plenty to learn from it. It teaches about basics about the good and the bad of beekeeping. It is a book that will make you afraid of beekeeping or want to run right into beekeeping. If you are not sure about beekeeping I suggest you read this book.


Keeping Bees and Making Honey is a book that revolves around the steps towards making honey. It gives suggestions to help your bees make more honey. It goes over the basics of beekeeping, also, but the focus is on the honey. If you want to go into beekeeping for making honey I would suggest you read this book and at least one other book. If you like food there are recipes for different honey related dishes.



Working with Bees in 2016

In 2016, Mr. Mike and Mrs. Julie (my mentors) placed two hives on our property because they cannot have beehives on their property. We were able to work with Mike and Julie’s bees that they placed on our property. We learned a lot about honey bees from inspecting the hives with them.


Nathan, (our older brother), Mr. Mike, and Mrs. Julie inspecting a beehive. During an inspection, they look for either the queen or eggs, larvae in all stages, capped brood, and ample supplies of pollen and honey.




Another day, Mr. Mike, Mrs. Julie, and Bethany inspecting the hives. Watch as the hives get bigger and bigger.




Mrs. Julie showing us a frame. Notice the white comb which is where the honey is stored and the orange dots of capped brood.

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Mrs. Julie and our younger sister talking about what is going to happen during the hive inspection.

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Mr. Mike, our younger sister Olivia, Abigail, and Mrs. Julie beginning an inspection. Mr. Mike is smoking the hive entrance to calm the bees down and hide the bees pheromones. Mrs. Julie is showing Olivia and Abigail a frame and pointing out the honey and brood on it. Can you see all the bees flying around the hive?

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Mr. Mike and Mrs. Julie take turns pulling frames so that they can put them back in the right order. The frames should be put back in the same order so the brood nests stays together in the middle of the hive body and the resources are on the outside frames.




Placing the frames back in the hive carefully.



Mrs. Julie explaining what they saw in the inspection.



Drones (male bees) are incapable of stinging and are very gentle. Olivia is holding one in her hands.




Our younger sister tentatively holding a drone.




Our even younger brother courageously letting the done crawl on him as well.




Honey bees taking off from the robbing screen. A robbing screen helps the bees defend their hive by creating a certain amount of space for the bees to defend from intruders. The bee at the very top has pollen (the orange blobs on her legs) in her pollen sacs.

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A hornet, an enemy of the honey bee, is often confused with bees. Bees sting only for self-defense and protection of their hive. Bees die after they sting. Hornets, yellow jackets, and wasps are often aggressive and sting for no reason. Hornets, yellow jackets, and wasps can sting over and over again and do not die just because they stung something.




Olivia and Bethany taking pictures of the beehives.




Honey comb that was scraped from the hive because it was not in the proper location.  I will talk more about beeswax and its uses in another post in the future.




A bee sipping up honey from the telescoping lid of her hive.  She will take this honey back to her hive.

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Iowa Honey Producers Association  (IHPA) State Fair booth – 2016

The IHPA booth is on the second floor above the butter cow in the agriculture building. At the IHPA booth they showcase entries to the Iowa State Fair, beekeepers educate fair goers about honey bees and beekeeping, and there is a stand that sells locally produced honey and honey related products.


This is one part of the IHPA booth in which you can see beeswax candles and art, gift baskets, and bee related pictures which were entered in the Iowa State Fair.




Some of us standing in front of the honey frames at IHPA booth.




A honey bee hitched a ride on our stroller.  (Yes it came along with us inside the building.)




We assume she came from one of the observation hives that were on display at the IHPA booth.



A strawberry blossom, one of the bees’ sources of food.



Autumn joy, a fall plant the bees pollinate.
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Our Honey Bee Adventure

We are sisters who love honey bees and want to share our adventure.

My name is Abigail. I got into beekeeping when my mentors placed two beehives on our property. They allowed my siblings and I to inspect the hives with them. My mentor told us about the Iowa Honey Producers Association’s Youth Scholarship Program. I applied for the 2018 scholarship and received it. I’m starting this blog to keep a record of my first year as a beekeeper. Besides beekeeping, I love to bake and cook. I especially like to cook soups and bake cakes and pies. I play the piano, flute, and a little bit of both the guitar and violin. I play the piano for congregational singing at my church and am working on being able to play flute for congregational singing as well. I am the secretary and treasurer of my 4-H group.

Hello, I am Bethany. I enjoy reading, writing, baking, drawing, and biking. I play soccer and softball. I take care of our family chickens. One of my recent hobbies is beekeeping. Beekeeper friends of ours put hives on our property in spring of 2016 because they cannot have bees in their yard. Our beekeeper friends have been kind enough to let my sibling and me help inspect their hives. In November 2017 my sister, Abigail, won the 2018 Iowa Honey Producers Youth Scholarship. With the bees and hive starter kit Abigail received, our family was able to purchase a second hive set up at a reduced price. Mom bought this reduced starter kit so I could start my beekeeping adventure, too. On this blog I want to learn and help other learn about bees and beekeeping. Hopefully I will be helpful and influence other people to get bees and start their own beekeeping adventure.


Abigail & Bethany