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.


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.


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.


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.


Working the IHPA Booth at the State Fair

We were able to work the Iowa Honey Producers Association’s Booth at the State Fair. We were really excited to give back especially to IHPA since Abigail received one of their Youth Scholarships. Abigail and Bethany worked five days of the state fair, Olivia worked three, and Miriam worked one.

Abigail worked the candle rolling station twice. She really enjoyed talking to all the state fair goers especially the kids. All the proceeds from the candle rolling station went to the queen so that she could continue to educate people about bees. Abigail also got to work the observation hives. Observation hives are thin one frame wide hives with windows so people can see into them. Abigail was able to share about what the bees were doing, point out the queen, and got to explain why bees are so helpful.


Bethany worked the register three days. This was her favorite task. Bethany sold cosmetics at her register. Bethany kept a careful eye out for potential products to make.


Olivia got to do a lot at the fair including working the candle rolling table, hand out free samples, bag for Bethany, and put ice in cups and fill them with delicious honey lemonade.


Bethany got to fill cups with ice and honey lemonade for two days. She enjoyed it and got to drink lots of lemonade. All volunteers get all the honey lemonade they can drink. A great perk to volunteering at something that is already a ton of fun.


Working the sample table was Olivia’s favorite thing to do. She loves honey so she is the perfect honey spokesperson. There were easily over thirty flavors of honey. There was even creamed honey which is honey that is allowed to purposefully crystallize.


Miriam worked the booth one day. She got to fill cups with ice and honey lemonade. Next year she is planning on working more.


We all wore our IHPA shirts the days we worked. We all enjoyed volunteering and plan on volunteering again next year.



Entering the State Fair

The last two years we have entered the Iowa State Fair apiary category. This year however we tried a few new things.

Mom was the only one of us to try her hand at art. She ended up winning a first place ribbon in the beeswax art category. There were only three entries which makes winning easy.


This year our bees produced beautiful capped frames full of honey. This is Abigail’s sixth place wining frame.


We also had extracted or wet frames. This is a frame Mom extracted herself. She won sixth place.


This is Abigail’s fifth place winning extracted frame.


This is Bethany’s third place winning extracted frame.


This is Olivia’s Second Place winning extracted frame. We won four of the six spots in this category.


This year we got Honey! So we bottled pound jars to enter in the State Fair. Abigail got second place in the youth category and Bethany got third place in the youth category.


Unfortunately, none of us won a placing in candles. There is always next year.


Mom got third place in photos with a lovely picture of a bee on autumn joy.


All in all we did really well at the state fair and are planning on entering again next year.


How to Make Beeswax Candles

Beeswax is a valuable product from beehives.  One way to use beeswax is in candles.


The first step to making candles is rendering beeswax.  We blogged the rendering process here.  Candles are a great way to use dirty beeswax that cannot be used in cosmetics.


The second step to making candles is melting down rendered wax.  Wax can be melted in a liquid measuring cup.  Whatever wax is melted in will become a permanent wax tool because it is incredibly hard to remove wax from glass.  Wax can either be melted in a microwave or over a double boiler system.  I prefer melting wax using a double boiler system because the wax will not burn as easily.




While the wax is melting, the candle molds should be prepared.  The easiest way to get the wick through the mold is to thread the wick through a big sewing needle.  Next the molds should be sprayed with mold release.  Mold release is not essential, but it is useful.  The wick needs to be tied to something in order to keep it straight.  We tie our wicks to chopsticks then lie the chopsticks on cups.



This is our candle making set up.  The pint jars have napkins on top of them so that the wick will stay out of the way.  We use rubber bands or hair pretties to keep the molds together.




Once the molds are prepared and the wax is melted, the candles can be poured.  The mold should be filled two-thirds of the way than the wax should be tipped to one side.  Doing this makes the air bubbles float to the top.  The candle then should be filled all the way up.  It is important for the candle to be filled to the brim because the candle will shrink a little.




Once the top of the candle is semi-solid the bottom wick should be cut and pressed into the candle.  Doing this ensures that the candle will sit flat.


After the candle is completely cool and solid it should be removed from its mold.  This is an incredibly delicate process.  We almost always have two people removing the candle.  It is important to be careful to not smash the candle against anything when removing it from its mold.  Finally, the candles wick should be trimmed.  The proper length of a wick is an eighth of an inch long.


Here is what our finished candle looked like.  We had not trimmed the wick yet.




Here is the other candle we were making above.  Both candles turned out really well.  We sell both of these candles.  Prices and other products can be found at Our Honey Bee Store.



If a candle has a major impurity after it is pulled out of a mold, the impurity should be removed and rendered.  The pure wax can be remelted and poured again.





Extraction Day 2018

We extracted in August before the Iowa State Fair so that we could enter some of our honey into the Fair. Because we do not have an extractor and they cost a lot, we extracted with the Sanders.



Here Olivia is cutting the capping off a frame. The Sanders have a great uncapping set up. They have a five gallon bucket with a piece of wood notched so that it fits across the bucket’s circumference. On the piece of wood there is  a screw. Just a little bit of pointy side of the screw pops through the wood. The frame sits on the screw as the frame is being uncapped.




To uncap a frame, first you saw up into the cappings from about a third of the way down the frame. Then you saw down the whole frame. If the knife cannot uncap part of the frame you use a cappings scratchier to uncap the rest of the cells. It is important to uncap all the cells because if all the cells are not uncapped, all of the honey will not be extracted. Here Bethany uncaps a frame. The cappings can be used in creams and cosmetics.




The honey poured out of a honey gate on the bottom of the extractor. Abigail held the bucket in place while the extractor ran to prevent the honey from spilling. The blue green thing on the wood piece is the cappings scratchier.



Here we are after we finished our first extraction. (Left to right: Mrs. Sander, Mr. Sander, Olivia up front, Abigail, and Bethany.)




We extracted 75.4 pounds from 23 frames of honey!




We stored our honey in food grade buckets. We put plastic wrap on the honey. The foam sticks to the plastic wrap and is easy to remove. We let our honey sit for about a week to let the foam rise to the top.




It was super fun to extract with our mentors. The honey tasted really good.




Harvesting Honey

On July 30th, we harvested our honey. We harvested our honey the same day we were planning on extracting it.


We started the harvesting process by gathering our equipment. Bethany, Olivia, Mom, and I all completely suited up. We expected the bees to be very buzzy because we were going to steal their extra honey. We decided to just use bee brushes to remove the bees from the honey frames because we already had bee brushes and because it is the cheapest way. We were concerned that using just bee brushes would upset the bees.


Next, we opened up the hives. We decided not to smoke them because we did not want our honey to taste or smell like smoke. Bethany and I harvested the frames and brushed the bees of the frames. We then handed the frames to Mom who took them to Olivia. Olivia put them in a super that was on top of an outer cover and had an outer cover on top of it. The double outer covers system would keep the bees out of the harvested honey. Super frames should only be pulled if they are seventy to eighty percent or more capped. Only harvesting frames that are mostly capped, prevents the honey’s moisture content from being too high. Any frames that were not capped enough were left in the hives. We harvested twenty-three frames from three hives. We got the most frames from Green Gables (Abigail’s hive).


The bees got really agitated as we brushed them off the frames. However, no one was stung until Abigail started putting the last inner cover on the last hive. Abigail was the only person to be stung on this harvest day.


The next step to getting honey is extracting. We set all of the honey frames in our car so that they would be nice and hot for extraction.





Products of the Hive 2018

Many products come from a hive. Honey, beeswax, pollen, and propolis are the four major products. This year, we extracted honey and collected beeswax and made products out of them.



We extracted honey from three of our five hives. We put our honey in either one pound queenline jars (front) or pint jars (back).




Here is all the pint jars and queenline jars we have for sale along with our State Fair entries.




These are our State Fair entries. We entered in the three one pound jars of extracted honey category. Abigail entered the ones on the left and won second place. Bethany entered the ones in the middle and won third place. Olivia entered the ones on the left and did not place.




Here are our honey prices.


One pound queenline jars of honey for $10.00 a jar.




Approximately one pound five ounce pint jars of honey for $12.00 a jar.




We made candles out of beeswax. Here are the prices of each type of candle.



Lighthouse beeswax candles for $4.00 a candle. Dimensions: 3¾” tall x 2⅕” at the widest part.




Skep beeswax candle for $5.00 a candle. Dimensions: 3″ tall x 2¼” at the widest part




A bear hugging a skep beeswax candles for $3.00 a candle. Dimensions: 2 ¼” tall x 2 ¾” at widest part




Small spiral beeswax candles two for $3.00 or four for $5.00. Dimensions: ⅜” wide x 4″ tall



Small skep beeswax candles for $3.00 a candle. Dimensions: 1½” tall x 1½” at widest part.



Floating rose beeswax candles for $3.00 a candle. Dimensions: 2⅝” from petal to petal x 1⅛” tall.



Top view of floating rose beeswax candle.



Votive beeswax candles for $4.00 a candle. Dimensions: 2″ tall x 1¾” at widest point.