The community does not receive education about beekeeping in any arena. It is very important that the economic, social, and environmental aspects of beekeeping be exposed to the public. We will make a comparison between the Flow and Langstroth Hives to see if they are worth the extra cost and can make up for it in labor savings. Our program will have a minimum of a 1 acre pollinator garden to demonstrate environmental stewardship. We will demonstrate beekeeping and encourage others to get involved in the social aspects of beekeeping and support a collaborative marketing effort.
Final Project Summary:
The focus of our project was to educate the public on beekeeping, make connections in the industry, and to compare the flow hive to the langstroth hive. Education was the easy part of the project. We were able to make connections through social media, beekeeping clubs, and make a positive impact on the local school. Our students and local beekeepers are now connected to Iowa and Minnesota Beekeeping Clubs and that will enhance collaboration. We actually started to manufacture our own beekeeping equipment and this has made a great deal of connections also. There were many learning opportunities, like building parts, that became an unforeseen advantage of this project. The Flow hive comparison was the only disappointment. However, that was not due to the hive. Although our project did not attain its main goal we did achieve a great deal of success.
- Compare and contrast the Flow and Langstroth Hives for labor efficiency, honey production, and observe their hive culture.
- Create a pollinator garden at the front of our school for high public exposure and public and student education opportunities on the environmental benefits of honey bees.
- Collaborate with the North Central Iowa Beekeeping Club and other adults to create a connection between students and the community to foster the social aspects of beekeeping and encourage more people to become beekeepers and pursue careers in the industry.
- Investigate and explore marketing alternatives for a collaborative marketing effort for small scale beekeepers.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Students researched bee winter survival and designed and constructed a structure to overwinter bees.
The most rewarding part of this project was education of the public. I was very surprised by the excitement of students, teachers, administrators, school board members, and local residents. I knew we would have the attention of local beekeepers. The public was on board from the beginning and promotion of the project was very easy. There was a great deal of education that became a part of this project.
To prepare for a beekeeping project that is part of a public school, there are some items you will need to do that no one will tell you about. The first is to contact insurance and make sure you can have a beekeeping program at your school. More than likely you will be required to have all students sign a beekeeping waiver. This waiver is needed for all students in your school. There is always a chance that a class might want to see the beehives, bees will be close and visit your school looking for nectar, and it will disclose any known allergies that you need to be aware of. Insurance will also be needed because hopefully you will have some honey to sell someday. This should not be at a very high cost and ours was under $50 for the year. You will also need to make sure your city has a beekeeping ordinance that allows you to have a beehive in city limits. It would not be recommended to have your beehive on school grounds. But, you will want it close by so you can use it easily for education. An example beekeeping waiver and city ordinance are included in this report. You should have your insurance and legal review all of these items before you use them.
Students were able to take advantage of this program in many ways. The excitement cannot be contained when they see the beekeeping suits out at the beginning of class. You will want to have half a dozen beekeeping suits. One advantage of working with Flow Hive was that they gave us six beekeeping suits with the purchase of two hives. We also have to bee veils. It takes a group of people when you are moving the hives. By having students involved in the program they were able to get hands on and learn a lot about beekeeping.
This is a high school program at our school. But, our elementary has also been involved with this program. Many classes have taken tours of the beehives. The Flow Hive has a window so you can look into the hive. We also were able to harvest honey with no beekeeping equipment on. Students grabbed the harvesting hoses, attachments, and honey jars. We crossed the street and students harvested the honey in everyday clothes. The amount of learning available with the Flow Hive’s windows and the safe opening of the hive is amazing. This might be the biggest advantage of the Flow Hive.
This is absolutely essential for this program to succeed. Unless you have been a beekeeper for many years, you will need help. There are numerous ways a mentor will be beneficial. We had many people that helped us throughout this project. We also joined the North Iowa Beekeepers and the Southeastern Minnesota Beekeepers Association. Mentors will have a huge impact on the success of your operation.
Our mentors were huge for our program. Ben Klankowski was the main mentor and he added a great deal of credibility to our program. He also let us borrow equipment when funding ran short! Your funding will run short because this program will grow through splits! Having a mentor can help you adjust to unforeseen circumstances. The biggest part of the mentor/mentee relationship is the advice and guidance you will receive. Beekeeping is not an easy hobby, and it is even tougher to make a profit. You will need help to make this work!
Having two beekeeping clubs to join was a big advantage for us. We get their newsletters and these are huge. Even when you can’t attend meetings, you still get an education every time they meet. We did have the advantage of crossing state lines. Both states do have some items that they do that the other group does not. It was a benefit to us to learn from two groups of professional beekeepers. This did change the direction and how we raised our bees. It also helped us diagnose the loss of our first set of hives. You will make mistakes at beekeeping no matter how hard you try. Beekeeping Clubs will be a huge part of your success so you must find local ones to join!
Flow Hive/Langstroth Hive Comparison
Having both hives next to each other was a great educational opportunity. Students could see two different ways of beekeeping side by side. It provided a chance to analyze and observe beekeeping in a new way. The first year did show some differences in the two hives. However, year two was not a great year for honey production. Even with the loss of year two comparisons, this was a good educational experience.
Traditional Langstroth Hives do not have an easy way to observe bees without taking the hive apart. It is still important for students and the public to learn how this hive operates. There is a great deal to learn about hive health, bee interaction, bee life cycle, honey production, and livestock herdsmanship when you open up this hive. We allow properly equipped participants to take the hives apart and pull frames. Once a frame is removed from the hive you can bring that frame to the public for viewing. As long as the handler and audience remain calm, cool, and confident the bees will remain on the frame for observance. The response we received from people being able to be this close to a beehive and observe bees in action was incredible. The Langstroth Hive does have a huge amount of educational opportunities.
The Flow Hive has a window that can be removed for observance. We do have people visit the hive on their own and open up the window. For classes, this is a great opportunity as you do not have to put on any personal protective equipment to observe the hive. Students and the public can get right beside the hive and observe the bees in action. We have even had students dip their fingers in honey and then allow bees to feed off their hand. You cannot get at the honey in a traditional hive. The Langstroth Hive has access, but it cannot compete with how accessible the Flow Hive is for educational purposes.
As far as a honey harvest comparison, our research was inconclusive at this time. The first year the Flow Hive did have 28 pounds of honey in one hive. The second Flow Hive did not have any yield. We did not have any honey from the Langstroth Hives. Honey yield in the first year of a hive is very rare. However, the second year we had no honey to harvest. It was a tough year for bees in our area. The Flow Hive does have some advantages we noticed. We were able to harvest honey straight from the hive right into the jar. Unfiltered and unprocessed honey has many benefits and can be sold at a higher price. Plus, our honey was fresh straight from the hive. This should be a huge advantage for beekeepers. Since the Flow Hive already has the Honey Super combed out, bees do not have to spend time making wax honeycomb. It takes from four to six pounds of honey to make one pound of beeswax. This might be the reason one hive had honey the first year. And, the Flow Hive will need to come down in price to make this affordable for commercial production. Competitors are starting to come out and the price might become economical. We do need to repeat this comparison for a few more years to get a conclusion.
Our plan is to continue this research until we reach a conclusion. The Flow Hive now has competition and the price is dropping. With the ability to harvest honey directly from the hive and no harvesting equipment to buy, the Flow Hive concept could be economically feasible. We also plan to make plans for a Flow Hive box to hold the Flow Frames. It would reduce the price of buying this hive considerably if you could build your own box and buy the Flow Frames. Beekeeping is cost prohibitive for beginners, and we want to find ways to help beekeepers find success.
Honey Harvest in Pounds
We did not plan to learn about overwintering bees but this was a great unforeseen opportunity. Overwintering bees is the biggest obstacle for beekeeping. In the Spring of 2019, many beekeepers in Southern Minnesota and Northern Iowa lost all their bees in a harsh winter. Ours did not even make it to the winter. What was a setback turned into a great learning opportunity. We decided to work on finding alternatives that would provide better winter protection and survival for bees.
The answer we found was not in our backyards but in Europe. Beekeepers around the Midwest wrap their hives with an insulated plastic. During the Winter of 2018-19 many beekeepers lost all their bees with this method. I had also discussed with one of our mentors about how he winters his bees in an outside shop. Mark McKinley said his experience was that in the winter, wind was your enemy. We found that in Europe, many beekeepers have insulated sheds to house their bees. We put the two ideas together and then looked into humidity management. We knew that the wind and humidity was a combination that was lethal to bees. Our solution is a hybrid of Mark McKinley’s shed, European beekeeping, and our research and experience.
This is the basic concept of our experimental shed. We designed it like a beehive so that moisture can flow up and out the outside edge of the lid. The design was built custom to fit the three beehives. We did not want a lot of room around the beehives so that heat would be conserved. All four sides are studded and insulated with fiberglass insulation. We also studded and insulated the roof. If the shed was too warm then the bees would not go into their winter cycle. To help prevent that we did not insulate the floor in this experimental shed. We have a min/max thermometer to record the temperature inside the shed. It is pretty basic but we hope it will work. We have added a newspaper quilt on top of the inner cover to help absorb humidity and keep it off the bees. We change this quilt each time we inspect the hives. There will be pictures and plans of this hive box with final results after our research is complete.
Winter Shed Internal Temperature
A beekeeping waiver would be a very good idea. Insurance may require it for many schools It would be a good idea to complete the waiver with all students and parents. This is important to inform about the program and also to get input on possible allergies. A sample beekeeping waiver follows.
This is a very safe activity for students and adults to be a part of. We encourage you to provide permission for your student to be involved with this project, and for you to come and observe and participate when the opportunity arises. Most of the time the proper personal protective equipment for beekeeping is everyday clothes. If more than that is required, we will provide that equipment for all participants. We also need to know of any allergies your student may have no matter if you allow your student to be a part of this program or not. We are excited for your student and your family to become a part of this new activity.
I give my child, ______________________________________, permission to be involved with the beekeeping program.
I DO NOT give my child, ______________________________________, permission to be involved with the beekeeping program.
Please list any allergies your student has (especially stings, pollen, plants, etc.) __________________________________________________________________________
Local Codes and Ordinance
You will need to check your ordinances and codes where the apiary will be located. Many of you will need to have beekeeping added to the local codes and ordinances. The code needs to be supportive of beekeeping and not too restrictive to the success of the program. Some codes have a barrier requirement around a hive. This is not a good idea! It will obstruct the flight zone of the bees and you want your hives visible! It would be a better idea to have signs. Those signs could be educational about the hive to help people learn more about beekeeping. A sample code follows.
Proposed City Beekeeping Code
BEEKEEPING: Apicultural activities, which includes raising bees or insect pollinators in one or more boxes or habitat occupied by pollinators. For the uses of pollination and using the honey produced, but not including commercial honey processing or honey warehousing (emphasis added). Hobby beekeeping will be allowed in city limits.
Beekeeping shall be allowed in the Z1, Z2 or Z3 zoning districts with the following restrictions:
- The minimum lot area should be twenty thousand (20,000) square feet;
- Maximum number of hives allowed is four (4) hives in Z2 and Z3 districts and ten (10) hives in Z1 district;
- Hives should be located in the rear yard and a minimum of four feet (4’) from property lines.
Bee Survival Management
One of the best opportunities from networking with other beekeepers is learning. We encourage people to attend local beekeeping club meetings. It is a great way to ask questions and learn from veteran beekeepers. You can also keep up on current issues and problems beekeepers are facing. Networking with other beekeepers is essential to beekeeping success.
Our first year was great on honey production but ended with the loss of our hives. We were able to harvest 28 pounds of honey off one hive and the bees looked very good through September. Through October their numbers did go down drastically. We had treated for mites in early September. It seemed like the bees did very well through that treatment. But, by the end of October all our bees were dead.
I had been doing a lot of research and wanted to find the reason for our beehive death. While attending a meeting with the Southeastern Minnesota Beekeepers Association, I was able to talk with a sustainable, veteran beekeeper. In his experience, humidity and moisture were a bigger cause of death to bees than mites. He actually quit treating his hives for mites as he wanted to use no chemicals in his hives. He had found that even mites must have a purpose and bees can learn to live in harmony with and manage the mites on their own if we select and manage our bees correctly. This conversation solved what I had suspected and gave me reinforcement for how I wanted to raise our bees.
The death of our bees was tied to the location of our hives. Our beehive is at a park across the street from the school. We set up the hives in a spot that was far away from the flowers and ornamentals on display. This location had an elevation about 12 feet lower than the rest of the area. Water would tend to collect around the hive, but not under the hive. On cool mornings or nights, fog would descend on this area. Our hives were sitting in an area of very high humidity and moisture. Our bees died from over exposure to humidity in the fall.
A new location for our hives was needed so they could survive. We moved our hives in year 2 to the highest point in the park. The bees were more active earlier in year 2. We noticed that our inner cover stayed dry during year 2. Even though there was a wetland area close by, the bees stayed healthy and much drier. The new location changed our bee health and survival a great deal.
One of the biggest concepts I like to teach is being less dependent on chemicals. Even though the most common treatment for mites is organic, it is still a foreign chemical we are adding to the hives. Also, when you treat, the hive is very exposed and this will impact bee health. The treatment includes formic acid at high concentrations and suggests you handle the strips with gloves. It costs more money for the beekeeper, and I have to wonder if some of this treatment ends up in the honey. Less dependence on chemicals for our bees would be an advantage for beekeepers for many reasons.
We raised our bees in year 2 with no chemicals. After talking with the sustainable beekeeper, I was convinced we could get bees that would be able to live in harmony with the mites. No treatments also meant we did not have to spend money on chemicals. We had four hives and selected bees from two different suppliers to get two different sets of genetics. Our genetic comparison was Italian and Minnesota Hygienic. The Italian bees arrived about a month ahead of the Minnesota Hygienic. One of the Minnesota Hygienic hives died off in July. The other did not survive November. It appeared that the hive was not strong enough to fight off bees trying to steal their honey. However, the Italian genetics thrived all season long and are still going in the shelter at the end of February. Both hives are very healthy, active, and strong with no mite treatments. We are hoping that we can stay chemical free and split these hives. If these bees can continue to thrive with no treatments we would like to source these bees to beekeepers in our area.
This was the toughest part of the grant. However, it was due to weather and out of our control. In the end it became a blessing. The original location of our pollinator garden was very wet each Spring. It is in a low elevation around our city water treatment facility. We wanted to feed pollinators and reduce the mowing for the facility. However, the weather would not allow us to plant for two years.
Road construction has provided us with a better location that is also drier. A semi hit our school in January 2018. A turning and passing lane were added to the entrance to our school. The new ditch and buffer will need a cover crop. We will not plant our pollinator garden in that area. It will be next to our school and closer to our beehives. The pollinator garden will not have more visibility and will add to the landscape of our school. This delay was unfortunate, but we were able to turn it into a better garden.
We have made connections with Southeastern Minnesota Beekeeping Association and North Iowa Beekeepers. This connection has also brought the two groups together to increase cooperation across state lines.