Beekeeper Education and Support in NW Iowa

Final report for LNC15-365

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2015: $63,481.00
Projected End Date: 10/01/2017
Grant Recipient: Dordt College
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Duane Bajema
Dordt College
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Project Information


Annual Report

The results of the grant to this point have exceeded my expectations.  The successful implementation of two field days and the successful work of the two technicians have also met and exceeded my expectations.  The activity has been noted by the Iowa Honey Producers Association and the state apiarist of Iowa, and portions of the work implemented through the grant are under consideration for replicating in other regions.

The new regional beekeeping association (Siouxland Beekeepers Association) has a growing membership.  There are about 35 dues-paying members, but the monthly meetings are open to anyone who wants to attend.  There are approximately 50 individuals in attendance at each monthly meeting.  

The grant has been extended into 2017.


Project Objectives:

Two technicians were employed, trained, and supervised during the summer of 2016.  Weekly progress meetings were held to discuss issues the technicians dealt with as they sought to help beginning beekeepers address problems they encountered on-site.  The technicians served the beginning beekeepers with on-site visits totaling 65 individual visits in IA, SD, MN, and NE.  An individual report was submitted for each visit.

Two all-day field days were successfully implemented on June 4 (51 participants) and July 30 (40 participants) that addressed needs of the beginning beekeepers.  Some of the field day content was derived from the situations that the technicians encountered on their visits.  Participants came from South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri.  Assessments of both field days provided excellent reviews.

A revised beginning beekeeper course was revised and implemented for 35 students, one group in the summer of 2016 and one group in the spring of 2017.  Revisions were made based on the evaluations of the students and the feedback provided by the technicians. 

A solid new beekeeping association has been formed that is vibrant and is operating independently without outside support.


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  • Dr. Duane Bajema (Educator)


Involves research:
Participation Summary


Educational approach:

Two full-day field days were conducted on two different Saturdays during the summer of 2016 that included indoor activities in the morning and hands-on outdoor activities in the afternoon, providing instruction for learning and experiencing management activities in a bee hive.  Speakers at the field days came from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (state apiarist), the Iowa Honey Producers Association (past president and Vice-President), a Minnesota beekeeper, local beekeepers, government officials, and pollinator habitat promoters. 

Activities included:

  1. Varroa mite detection and treatment
  2. Hive manipulation by seeing a frame under magnification in a laboratory and then seeing the frame in the field
  3. Proper planting of pollinator habitat in the classroom and modeling of an actual planting on a farm
  4. Procedures for splitting a hive
  5. Wax-melter usage
  6. Government programs
  7. Swarm management
  8. Smoker usage
  9. Hive registration procedures where attendees actually registered their hives on line
  10. Super removal process
  11. Honey extraction sanitation and methods of harvesting
  12. Winterization procedures


Two technicians were hired to visit and assist beekeepers at their hive location.  The technicians were trained to aid beekeepers in doing the fundamental activities necessary for successful beekeeping.  The technicians assisted the beekeepers, but it was stressed that the beekeepers had to learn by doing their own work.  Technicians and the Principle Investigator (PI) met weekly to discuss any problems and issues they found in their work.  The PI would occasionally follow up with problems the technicians could not answer with certainty.  The feedback helped shape the content of the field day activities.

Former course participants who became beekeepers were brought together to form an active club that meets monthly in the Iowa State University Extension Office in Orange City, IA.  The club has developed a strong educational outreach to serve their membership.  They bring in outside speakers, have one of their own members talk about experiences which leads to group discussion, discuss equipment ideas.  The membership has been an encouragement to one another.  Approximately 45-70 people will attend a monthly meeting.  Due to the distance, two off-shoot sub-groups have started to meet to form their own support group of 10-15 members.  They will still attend meetings at Orange City, but not all the time.  One group of beekeepers meets in Larchwood, IA, about 35 miles north of the Orange City group, and one group meets near Sioux City about 35 miles south of Orange City.  Most of the sub-group activity is also educational in nature where people share questions and ideas which is usually combined with some social activity as well.  They are very supportive of one another.  

Before the grant, no groups existed.  Now a major group exists in Orange City, IA of 50+ individuals, and two sub-groups meet of 10-15 individuals each.  All three groups are large enough that there is a high probability that the groups will continue to grow to meet their own particular needs.

Project Activities

Beginning Beekeeper Field Days + Technician support

Educational & Outreach Activities

65 Consultations
1 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
5 On-farm demonstrations
2 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

91 Farmers participated
10 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:
  1. Two field days were implemented
  2. Technician support for newly established beekeepers has occurred for two years
  3. One major beekeeping association and two sub-group associations have formed
  4. The associations have sponsored on-farm visits and demonstrations utilizing the beehives of the membership
  5. A beginning beekeeper course continues to be offered


Of the beekeeping association, one of the members is now the Editor of The Buzz, a monthly newsletter published by the Iowa Honey Producers Association, and another technician has been elected to serve as a district state representative for the Iowa Honey Producers Association.  Both were former students who took the beginning beekeeper course, and their enthusiasm has continued to provide leadership in the region.

The association and sub-groups have set up significant first ever beekeeping promotion displays at three different county fairs in Lyon County, Sioux County, and Plymouth County, and plans are being discussed for bigger and better displays next year.

Learning Outcomes

91 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
10 Agricultural service providers reported changes in knowledge, skills, and/or attitudes as a result of their participation
Key areas taught:
  • Beekeeping knowledge
  • Skill development
  • Honey marketing
  • Wax-melting methods
  • Importance of continuing education

Project Outcomes

91 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
Key practices changed:
  • Beekeeping management and skill development

  • Wax management

  • Honey extraction and marketing

3 Grants applied for that built upon this project
2 Grants received that built upon this project
Success stories:

Field day evaluations were very positive and there is a demand for continuation of the field days in the future.  Field Day participants traveled from over a 100 mile radius to attend -- Omaha, NE, Des Moines, IA, and Vermillion, SD to name a few places. 

The local beekeeping association is discussing the possibility of taking a leadership role in the future to continue the field days.  They will not have to do so in 2018.  Because of the activity that the SARE grant supported and because of the subsequent developments that have occurred, the Iowa Honey Producers Association will for the first time in their history hold their annual state-wide summer field day in Northwest Iowa as a service to Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, and South Dakota beekeepers.

The work of training, directing, and supervising the technicians was one of the best investments made!  The one-on-one contact and support was an encouragement to new beekeepers.  The technicians reinforced the information presented in the course and at the field days.  The on-site visits in an individualized manner definitely helped the beginning beekeepers.  The technicians also encouraged people to participate in the club meetings in Orange City, IA.  The presence and encouragement of the technicians supported the activity of new beekeepers, and new beekeepers were able to work through initial doubts, hesitation, and issues.  Also, the association meetings have provided a location where people can go to deal with common issues as well as learn about beekeeping.  Discussions occur and leadership is developing within the groups.

This particular area of the U.S. was under served in the beekeeping support, and with the support of the SARE grant, the region is now on the radar of other associations of the 4-state area.  There are a substantial number of beekeepers in the area, and they are becoming quite visible, very active, and their voice is being heard.


I am most appreciative of what this grant has done for beekeeping in the region.  I am humbled by everything that has taken place --

  1. A solid association plus sub-groups in development
  2. Successful educational field days
  3. Many successful beekeepers
  4. The development of a vision and passion on the part of a lot of people for the future of beekeeping and their involvement in it
  5. Continued interest by additional people who have heard about what is happening and want to take a beginning beekeeper course
  6. A vision and respect for pollinators and pollinator habitat continues to grow and develop.


Recommendations?  I would like to apply for a grant to take the activity to an advanced level as well as continue to serve and support the new beekeepers in an expanded area.  Mentors are being developed for the newbies, but there is still the need to have a recognized location to contact for information and support.  A second recommendation is to develop an applied research project that scientifically monitors what exists (nosema infections, mite levels, etc) plus undertake applied research in the region to continue beekeeping activity in the 4-state region.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.