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.


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’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.


East Side Library Hive Inspection Presentation

On July 2nd, I gave a Hive Inspection Presentation at the East Side Library as the CIBA Honey Queen. First, I introduced myself. Then I explained what a beekeeper wears when inspecting. I explained that different beekeepers will wear different amounts of protection.

Next I explained a beekeeper’s tools. In the picture below, I am pretend smoking the hive entrance. A beekeeper smokes the bees to calm the bees down and mix up their attack pheromones.

East Side Hive Inspection - July 2nd, 2019

After I removed the outer cover and inner cover, I explained the difference between a super and a deep. A super is where the honey bees store the honey and the deep is where the honey bees raise the brood. In this picture, I am removing the super so that I can “inspect” the deep.


Here I am showing a real frame that has honey in it. I also showed a frame that shows the life cycle of honey bees. Finally, I talked about how the bottom board is the bees entrance.

East Side Hive Inspection - July 2nd, 2019 (3)

After my presentation, all the kids and adults were able to make a rolled beeswax candle. This picture shows all the colors they got to choose from.

East Side Hive Inspection - July 2nd, 2019 (4)

Here are some of the kids making a candle. This craft is a favorite wherever I do it. Everyone also got to plant pollinator friendly seeds to take home.


This was such a fun program.


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.


Abigail’s April 2019 4-H Presentation

Abigail gave a presentation on beeswax and its uses at her April 4-H meeting. She showed some of the products that we make and sell. Here is her presentation.

What is beeswax? Are there different kinds of beeswax and if so, what are they? Does beeswax need to be cleaned? What can be done with beeswax and are there any health benefits that come with using beeswax? I will be answering all of these questions today.

What is beeswax? Beeswax is honey that the bees have changed into beeswax. Only worker bees produce beeswax. Honey bees eat the honey then a special gland in her body changes the honey into beeswax. The beeswax is then secreted through the wax gland. It takes between eight and ten pounds of honey to make one pound of beeswax. One worker bee makes about 1/12 a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. Can you imagine how many bees it takes to make one pound of beeswax! Beeswax is used to create hexagonal shaped cells that the bees fill with honey, pollen, or brood or to cap honey and brood.

Are there different kinds of beeswax and if so, what are they? Beeswax is always beeswax. There are, however, different types of comb. Comb is beeswax when it is within the hive. The three types of comb that a beekeeper removes from the hive are burr comb, brood comb, and wax cappings. Beeswax is scraped from the hive by a beekeeper when it is in the beekeepers way. Burr comb is comb that the bees built where the beekeeper does not want it. Burr comb is often a deep yellow color. Burr comb is used to make candles. It is not used for cosmetics because it may have come in contact with treatments the beekeeper used to treat the hive for pests and diseases. Brood comb is comb that has had brood in it. Brood comb is usually very dark almost brown. Beekeepers get this comb when they remove a brood frame from the hive. This wax can be used for candles as long as it has a pleasant scent. A beekeeper may use brood comb to rub the inside of new equipment or as a smoker starter. Brood comb is not incredibly useful. When a beekeeper harvests honey, the wax cappings are cut off the honey cells. Honey cappings are the comb that the bees put over honey to keep it pure and at a perfect moisture content. Honey cappings are white or light yellow. Honey cappings are the finest beeswax and are used in cosmetics because it is free of chemicals.

Does beeswax need to be cleaned? Beeswax goes through a cleaning process called rendering before it can be used in products. Rendering is the process of purifying beeswax by melting it down and filtering it. Rendering wax can be done multiple ways. One must be careful when rendering because beeswax is very flammable. Beeswax should never be melted directly over heat and should never be left unattended. One way to render wax is to use a solar melter. A solar melter uses the suns rays to melt beeswax. The liquid beeswax then drips into a separate container through a screen leaving the impurities behind in the first container. Another way to render beeswax is to use a double boiler system. A pan of water is on the bottom with a pan to hold wax on top of it. A filter, sometimes paper towels or fabric, is attached to the top pan. The wax is either poured over the filter or left on top of the filter to melt. We render wax using a crock-pot. We put a crock-pot liner in the crock-pot then pour some water in it. Since beeswax is less dense than water, the beeswax will float. We then tie an old t-shirt to the crock-pot. We place the wax on top of the crock-pot then turn the crock-pot on low. The shirt removes the impurities while letting the wax melt through.

What can beeswax be used for and are there any health benefits that come with using beeswax? Beeswax can be used to make candles, lip balms, lotions, or it can be used as a lubricant, or a wood sealer. When beeswax is burned it cleans the air. This quality makes beeswax candles great for homes especially homes that have asthma suffers living in it. Beeswax is a sealer. It allows skin to breathe will keeping moisture in. Beeswax based lip balms and lotions help moisturize the skin. Beeswax is much better than petroleum jelly when it comes to cosmetics. Petroleum jelly is a byproduct of oil. Other petroleum byproducts are diesel, gasoline, and plastic. Petroleum jelly does not allow the skin to breathe which actually causes dry skin. Beeswax is an excellent lubricant for zippers. Beeswax will help a stuck zipper zip easy. Beeswax seals wood which helps prevent wood from cracking. Rubbing beeswax on wooden cutting boards helps make the cutting boards last longer. The health benefits of beeswax are it burns clean, moisturizes the skill, and allows the skin to breathe while it seals in moisture.

Beeswax is a product naturally found in beehives that is created by special glands only in worker bees. Beeswax must be rendered before being made into any product and there are quite a few ways to render it. There are many uses for beeswax. Beeswax is a moisturizer that allows the skin to breathe and burns clean. Beeswax is truly amazing.

For more information go to our blog DasselAcres.com or check out books from your local library.



Why Honey Crystallizes and How to ‘Fix’ It.

Crystallized honey is a common thing because raw honey crystallizes. Most grocery store honey does not crystallize because it is not real honey or because it is not raw honey. Crystallized honey is also really easy to ‘fix’.

This is our crystallized honey. Honey crystallizes because honey contains lots of natural sugar. The overabundance of sugar makes honey unstable especially when it is cold. Thus, it is natural for honey to crystallize since it is an over-saturated sugar solution. When glucose crystallizes, it separates from water and takes the form of tiny crystals. Therefore it crystallizes like seen below.


This is a picture of honey that is not crystallized.


Here is how we uncrystallized our honey. We put a heating pad underneath the bottles of honey. Some of the honey is crystallized only on the bottom others are fully crystallized throughout the jars.


After we put the honey on a heating pad, we covered them with towels and closed the cooler.


Other methods of uncrystallizing honey is putting it in a warm water bath using either a crockpot or a double boiler that stays under 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If you put it over 120 degrees, you loss all the nutritional value of honey.


The 2019 CIBA January Seminar

Every January, the Central Iowa Beekeepers Association has a seminar. This year the presentations were about creamed honey and swarm trapping.

The first presentation was given by Marlene Boernsen. She showed how to make creamed honey. In order to make creamed honey, one must have a starter. Mrs. Boernsen uses Sue Bees spun honey as her starter. She uses freezed dried fruit to flavor her creamed honeys. She uses one pound of fruit per sixty pounds of honey. One pound of already creamed honey should be used for twelve to thirteen pounds of uncrystallized honey.

Mrs. Boernsen makes three gallon batches at a time. All honey must be warmed so that it has no crystals. The honey’s moisture content should be 18% to 18.5%. Moisture should never be added to the honey. First the uncrystallized honey should be mixed with the starter. If the honey is going to be flavored, the freeze dried fruit should be added to a small container of the honey, mixed well, and then added to the big container of honey. This prevents the freeze dried fruit from clumping. Then the small fruit honey should be added to the bigger container of honey. The honey should not be whipped to prevent air from being added to the honey. After the honey is uniform in color, it should sit overnight in the five gallon bucket. After it has set, all the bubbles on the top of the honey should be removed. The honey should be put into one pound containers (or whatever container it is going to be sold in) no later than a day after it is made. The one pound containers should be put in a fridge that is set to fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit. The fridge must be a fridge that can be set to a specific temperature. A lot of beekeepers will use mini-fridges or wine fridges. The honey should be left in the fridge until it is crystallized which takes about six days. Creamed honey should be stored outside of a fridge in a cool dark place.

If one plans on selling creamed honey at fairs or craft shows, the creamed honey must be made in a certified kitchen. If the creamed honey is only going to be sold at farmer’s markets, the creamed honey does not have to be made in a certified kitchen. Creamed honey must be weighed periodically by a certified scale (e.g. postal scale). Mrs. Boernsen suggests marking each container of creamed honey with the day it was made and a batch number. She also suggests giving out lots of free samples.

Here is Mrs. Boernsen mixing up a batch of creamed honey during her presentation.


Bethany and Abigail helped with the snack table. They made rice crispy treats. Bethany (left) is plating cookies.


The second presentation was given by Jamie Beyer and it was on swarm trapping. Jamie gave a similar presentation at CIBA’s March 2018 Meeting. We blogged about that presentation here. This article was written by Dr Leo Sharashkin about swarm traps and includes free swarm trap plans. It is an excellent article.

A swarm is when half of the bees in a hive leaves the hive with the old queen and finds a new home. Most healthy hives will want to swarm, because swarming is how bees reproduce (make another colony) and occupy new habitat.

Swarm traps should be put up in areas near beehives. Traps should be put near timber that is, ideally, one hundred feet from your own hives. Nectar source trees are the best trees to put a swarm trap in. There should be a water source nearby. The entrance should point south or east. The box should be a light color. Honey bees like the same characteristics for their home whether they are a swarm or in a typical beehive.

A trap should have one or two old comb frames in it. The rest of the frames should be new frames because swarms build lots of comb when they move into a new home. A couple cotton balls with a few drops of lemongrass oil should be put in a zip lock bag then put in the bottom of the trap. The trap should be rubbed down with propolis and comb. Honey bees like hives that smell like beehives.

Once a beekeeper catches a couple swarms in one tree they tend to use that tree over and over again.

We learned a lot from this seminar. We now have swarm traps out by our house because we hope to catch swarms this summer. Hopefully, the swarms will not be from our hives.


Working a Vendor Fair in December

In December, Bethany, Abigail, and Mom worked a vendor fair for the Sanders. This fair was in Polk City. It was in a small building so it made it easy to talk to the other vendors and we enjoyed talking to them. We kept records of sales, rearranged product in the store nearby where the Sanders sell some honey, and packed up by ourselves.

Here is Bethany and Abigail behind the table.


Some important things to bring to a vendor fair are chairs to sit in, something to give away (in this case the bee erasers), and bags to put the sold products in. It is also important to make sure clothing is professional, but also represents your product. That is why we wore our bee shirts. We really enjoyed working this vendor fair and learned a lot from it.