Quarterly Update from Andy, Sept. 1, 2017

By Andy Joseph


Quite a season.  Haven’t seen any major bee health issues for a little while.  Bees seem to do so well in years of a more wet spring followed by a hotter, dry summer.  Lots of pollen still coming in this late August.  Must be at least a little nectar still coming as well.  I’ve been pulling honey and extracting in my “free time” this past week, and the bees have really been pretty well behaved.  No crazy robbing or fighting me yet.  The crop is good – this is true for most people I’ve talked to around the state.  Boxes are full and heavy.  Moisture content is fine to fairly low.  Frames of foundation were drawn into nice combs well through July.  Nearly every year, that last round of supers comes back in light or even empty, especially boxes without drawn combs.  Beekeepers’ optimism… this year most of that final round of supers got drawn and filled.  Very happy about this, though the greedy side of me wonders if I could’ve gotten lucky with adding even another box to some.

The fair was great.  Tons of fun.  Glad it’s over.  See you all back there in 11.5 months.  Thank you to everyone that worked there in the booth and to everyone who brought such quality entries.  I met a lot of “new” people there this year.  Had the opportunity to meet and work with several of the IHPA scholarship youth – impressive bunch all around.  Thank you to Connie and Heidi and Rhonda and Doyle and all the incredible Vannoys – Carly, Carole, Scott – and the newly Mr.-and-Mrs. (congrats!) Foley and Maia and to the unstoppable Brandon Raasch.  These are people who seemingly never stopped working from before it started until after it was over.

Many of you have heard that Arvin Foell (longtime beekeeper, IDALS Apiary Inspector, and many years of service as CIBA President) was in a terrible auto accident.  Pictures of his smashed truck are horrific.  Arvin is a lot tougher than he lets on. He hasn’t had an easy couple of years, but just keeps charging on.  I just heard today that he has escaped the hospital and is at home to continue recovery.  I’m ridiculously happy for this news.  Hopefully by the time you read this he’ll be back into his hobbies of pole vaulting and hot yoga.  Get healed Arvin.  You have a state full of beekeepers thinking about you.

It’s getting late and I must get up and out early tomorrow to head over to Sioux City to meet with a great group of beekeepers.  Can’t quit yet though – I haven’t harped about mites.  This time last year, mite counts were awful for way too many beekeepers, including myself.  Numbers that seemed acceptable mid-season turned ugly by the time honey supers were pulled.  Colonies were crashing due to mite pressure and all the associated viruses.  Happy to report that, at least for the beekeepers I’ve recently visited, the mite counts haven’t been quite so foul this year.  They’re still too high – nearly all requiring treatment, but generally not as bad as the numbers last year.  Don’t get comfortable.  Check your hives and kill the mites.  Make sure you have good, laying queens.  Make sure they’re healthy by every knowable measure.  I encourage you to feed them pollen sub and syrup into the fall to help boost their nutrition, extend healthy brood rearing, and ensure adequate food stores for wintering.

Take care everyone.  See you!

Quarterly Update from Andy

Julia’s note: The Central Iowa Beekeepers Association asked the Iowa State Apiarist Andy Joseph to contribute a column to its quarterly newsletter. He gave permission to distribute to other clubs and their respective memberships.  I received this Andy’s first column on June 16, 2017, and present it to everyone below.


It’s June 5th as I’m writing.  It’s sunny and hot and the bees are flying.  The overwintered hives have already made quite a bit of honey around here.  And the new colonies are building up nicely.  Surprising how well a lot of the bees are doing, given the long wet cool spring.  Things are looking good overall now!

If you wind the clock back a few weeks, I was seeing a lot of EFB, mostly milder infections, but the bees mostly have gotten past it now.  Same for chalkbrood infections.  Right around the time a lot of us were making splits and others were receiving their packages, we went through a couple cold rainy snaps, and I think this is what stressed the bees & triggered the infections.  Even saw several dead packages, mostly due to not having access to food. These small colonies need that food right there where they are.  They should be able to be in cluster and still have access to a feeder.  This means a hive top syrup feeder of some sort and a pollen patty, and all should be well for the tiny new hives.  Access to antibiotics has become frustrating and annoying, so help the bees fend off some of these infections by making your splits good & strong, and providing lots of supplemental nutrition.

I’ve received calls and emails regarding small hive beetles (SHB).  We saw more last year than in past years, for sure.  Milder winter, very early warm up in spring and all the right conditions for them through the season = great reproductive success and extra generations of beetles developing in the season.  They’re all over Iowa.  I’m still not scared of them.  Keep your hives strong and healthy – get anything else taken care of ASAP.  Make the size of the hive reflect the size of the colony – not too many extra boxes stacked up.  Keep colonies in full sun.  Keep grass trimmed down around them.  Don’t leave empty equipment / deadouts in the bee yard.  You’ll be fine.  (Note that these guidelines mirror management against wax moths as well…)  All this said, most of the calls & emails I’ve received this year about SHB, have not been SHB!  There are several beetles commonly found in bee hives, and they don’t tend to be pests.  If you poke around in the debris on the bottom board, you’re likely to find at least one species of beetle.  They just scavenge around in the pollen, wax flakes, fungi, etc.  If you find some beetles down on your hive bottom board that sort of look like small hive beetles, but are maybe a bit more slender and not quite the right size, have no concern, they’re not hurting anything. Scroll through an image search for “sap beetles” and you’ll probably find a twin for your specimen.

Iowa State Fair! Oh my god, it’s coming up fast.  Please consider working a shift or two in the IHPA booth.  It’s a great time and really helps keep the IHPA rolling along!  We had a good turn out last year in the Apiary Contests, following a couple “down” years.  I exhibited in several classes for the first time last year, and now I can say with personal experience: It’s a bit of work to get quality exhibits prepared – and it’s definitely worth the effort!  Please consider showing at this year’s fair … an observation hive, creamed honey, beeswax art, a window display, photography, an extracted frame of comb, there are all sorts of classes of competition.  At the upcoming CIBA meeting, June 17 (if this note doesn’t reach you too late), there will be a panel discussion featuring Ginny Mitchell, our Apiary Judge.  Should be interesting, inspiring, and full of tips and tricks. If you think you may be interested in taking part, there is an upcoming deadline of July 14th – you must have ordered your entry tags by this date. You can do this online at www.iowastatefairentry.org .  Tags are still only $1 each for most exhibit classes.  Also, note that you don’t even need to declare what classes you’ll be entering, just the number of classes you hope to enter.  Hope to see you all there.  We had a great display last year – I’m hoping for even better this year!

Julia’s note: After creating an account, State Fair entrants will use the path: Iowa Family Living Entry > Apiary. There are also Open Classes for the Polk County Fair, which has photography and other fine art classes, but not apiary classes. Wouldn’t it be great to see the 4-H building dominated by honey bee images? To see a photo of honey judging, visit my personal blog: http://juliecache.com/2013/08/11/honey-is-an-agricultural-crop/.html

Meeting notes from Hive Theft program

bees, hive theft, iowa, honey
State Rep. Rob Taylor (R) tells us about last year when his bee hives were stolen

Notes from the Bee Rustlers presentation by Rob Taylor @ http://www.iowahoneycompany.com/

News story that explains the situation well: http://www.weareiowa.com/news/local-news/bee-hive-thieves-caught-on-camera/450423320

Best Practices

  • Have a unique identifier for your woodenware such as branding
  • Place hives in an inconspicuous area or make it known that they are under surveillance/being monitored
  • Trackers placed on/in hives
    • GPS $40-60 each and motion activated
    • Tile, price varies. The app is $5 but works only with signal and other tile users https://www.thetileapp.com/
    • Other trackers
  • Cameras, but they tend to anger people
  • Friendly neighbors
  • Register your hive with the state

Other notes

We had a great meeting with roughly twenty people attending, full of technical support and fellowship and ending by looking at Judith’s bees in her top bar hives.

Different markets will determine sales success with respect to creamed honey and bottling choices.

Certified kitchens and related regulations are for real. The Mickle Center has a certified shared kitchen as well as cold and dry storage for rent.  https://wallace.org/community-kitchen/

Upcoming meetings in the area

  • CIBA (6/17 http://centraliowabeekeepers.org/)
  • FBI (6/22 https://www.facebook.com/groups/919550424772695/)
  • IHPA Field Day (out of area, 7/15 https://www.iowahoneyproducers.org/)

Record keeping – How?

Record keeping – What? There are many things to keep track of, including

  •  Weather
  •  Movement of frames between hives
  •  Available forage

Record keeping – Why? To anticipate and prepare for next inspection, etc.

FB groups for Iowa flower identification are numerous, including Iowa Wildflower Report https://www.facebook.com/groups/937730669582578/

DMBB and other bee gear can be purchased here: http://www.cafepress.com/desmoinesbackyardbeekeepers

Feb. 2017 club meeting: Pesticides

We had Mark Lohafer speak about his experience with the IDALS Pesticide Bureau. I appreciated his honesty and the time he took for each person asking a question.

Below are my notes, as well as a handout I made in response to students inquiring about keeping hives near conventionally farmed land. After this meeting, I feel that I will be able to respond better on department activity when asked by students and make informed decisions on hive placement.

dmbb notes pesticide 2 28 17

Pesticide Reporting Resources

Beginning Beekeeping classes — sign up now for 2017

Beginning Beekeeping classes are open for registration now in the area cities of Ankeny, Des Moines, Polk City, and West Des Moines.  There will also be two “thinking about it” classes for folks who are interested but not quite sure that bees are right for them. For details, click for a convenient table below.

des moines area classes 2017

July meeting notes

Thank you to Eric and Keri Kenoyer for hosting the club in July. As usual, we talked about things to think about for the next month of beekeeping.

Notes can be found here:


Three photos from the evening include

irish honey
Jenny brought three Irish honeys to sample.
des moines backyard beekeepers robber screen
Mike shows his DIY robber screen
des moines backyard beekeepers varroa mite check
Doyle demonstrates a mite check

BeeLaws.org helps Iowans place beehives

For Immediate Release

Jan. 4, 2016

Iowa Honey Producers Association Announces Availability of www.BeeLaws.org

Learn where to keep bees legally

West Des Moines, IA— Jan. 4, 2016The Iowa Honey Producers Association (IHPA) proudly announces the immediate availability of www.BeeLaws.org. This website helps Iowa residents learn their city’s ordinances related to beekeeping.­­­ It is believed to be the first searchable bee law website in the nation.

Anyone curious about placing a bee hive can open the website, choose a city listed on the front page, read pertinent excerpts from that city’s ordinances, and see contact information for city staff. Digital code citations are given where possible.

“I am very excited for this new website,” said Roy Kraft, President of the Iowa Honey Producers Association. “One of the most common questions we get as beekeepers is if it’s legal to keep bees where someone lives, and no one really knew until now.” Andy Joseph, State Apiarist for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), chose 77 cities from around the state for inclusion on BeeLaws.org, with the hope of growth in the number of apiaries in and around those cities. Cities where beginning beekeeping classes were held in 2015 were also included on the website. No more cities will be added in 2016 while Julia McGuire, Project Investigator, conducts analysis of the bee law website and its impact.

Positive Environmental Impact

With national concern over pollinator presence and pollinator habitat, www.BeeLaws.org aims to responsibly fill the knowledge gap of Iowans interested in bee keeping. “With increased interest in beekeeping over the last year and a half, I want to help people keep bees and I want to help them do it legally,” said McGuire, coordinator of the Des Moines Backyard Beekeepers club and beekeeper since 2011. “BeeLaws.org aims to remove the burden of taking time to find the appropriate staff member at city hall, and then potentially facing negative impacts. If you cannot find a place in town to legally keep bees, you can hopefully use the website to find legal, nearby areas without having to spend a lot of time on the phone and free of risk.”

Written in lay terms, www.BeeLaws.org is a mobile-friendly website and is supported by the IHPA and the Iowa Specialty Crop Block Grant Program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) through grant 15SCBGPIA0001.

Founded in 1912, the IHPA, a 501(c)(5) agricultural organization and affiliate of the Iowa State Horticultural Society, serves over 900 members through monthly newsletters, a summer field day, and an annual meeting for education and networking. The organization aims to grow the Iowa honey industry through education and promotion.

The website content of www.BeeLaws.org was valid at the time of the 2015 survey and is solely the responsibility of the author and does not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA, IDALS, or the IHPA.

The Des Moines Backyard Beekeepers is an informal club with internet presence at www.desmoinesbackyardbeekeepers.org and with a Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/408704132571829/.

Andy Joseph became State Apiarist with IDALS in 2008. IDALS is responsible for a wide range of programs that affect the quality of life of every Iowan.  Both Iowans living on the farm and those in our towns and cities are impacted almost daily by the work of the Department, including the Sensitive Crops Directory and enforcing “Pesticide/Bee Rule” of the Iowa Administrative Code Chapter 21-45.31(206).  Effective January 22, 2009, the Rule was designed to help protect honey bees from chemicals that are toxic to bees.  www.iowaagriculture.gov


supporting honey bees and beekeepers in the metro Des Moines, Iowa, area