Home Beekeeping Honey Harvest: Gifts of Gold and Wonder

Honey Harvest: Gifts of Gold and Wonder

Honey Harvest: Gifts of Gold and Wonder
A honey of a close-up
not so hidden treasure
A beehive’s walled treasure: capped honeycomb

An Unexpected Honey Harvest

Last Saturday, on a dreamy afternoon pulled from the canvas of a Maxfield Parrish painting, my friends Sam, Dom, Angie, Lucy and Isabel paid a visit. Fresh from their cheese-making class just down the road at neighbor Kelsey’s place, my intrepid and spirited adventurers joined me on the lawn and shared some stories from the morning’s dairy diary. Lucy and Isabel kept Boz, Gracie, and the hammock busy, while the “adults” soaked up the sun like turtles on a pond log.

Nap time for Boz
Boz resting after his big romp, though still available for belly rubs.

Lucy and Isabel transformed my couch-potato comrades into bombastic bullies primed for play. When Boz and Gracie finally collapsed from too much fun, the girls asked if we could go check out the beehives. Delighted by their brave inquiry, I said, “Absolutely!” Besides, one more minute facing skyward on my mossy mattress and I would have had to call in a front loader to remove me from the lawn and prop me on the porch.  I quickly assured Sam, Dom and Angie that the hives were vacant of bees, but I did suggest everyone should stand back at first, just in case I was wrong. (I’m not so sure that made them feel any better.)

nothing sweeter than a little taste of honey
The taste of fresh honey; there’s nothing like it.

In the top-bar hive, I removed a few frames and surprisingly found two corners of capped honey. Isabel and Lucy were intrigued. They asked, “Can we try some?” To which, I replied, “Absolutely!” Without hesitation, they drew their fingers through the comb and ladled out a luxurious swipe of sunlit honey. Their giggles said it all, and they dove back in, making quick handy work of the bees’ parting gift.

honey harvest
Honey harvest with the island’s cutest beekeepers

In my other hive, a Langstroth type, Isabel (quick study that she is) noticed more frames with honey, an observation punctuated by the licking of one’s sweet fingers. How I overlooked those frames, I’ll never know. We removed the frames jammed with honey, and took them into the house, and stacked them gently on my dining table, which was now covered in plastic. In a matter of minutes, the perfume of our beehive booty infused the house with the intoxicating scent of a thousand summer flowers. Based on experience, I moved all of the chairs away from the table, just in case Boz was in the mood to summit the table for further investigation and a sticky snack.

straining honey
My grandmother’s old food mill comes to the rescue!

After dinner, my joyful entourage loaded up the car and headed off to the ferry, where a spectacular sunset view of the Olympic Mountains most certainly awaited them.  I assured my young beekeepers, that I’d share the spoils of our treasure hunt (that is once I extracted the honey).

spoonful of honey
Separating the honey from the comb

There is a thing called a honey extractor, an ingenious bucket devised to spin the honey out of the comb by applying centrifugal force, much like we rid lettuce of moisture in a salad spinner.My solution was much less elegant; I scrapped the honey-laden comb into a food grade bucket. I then added about a quart of that mixture to my grandmother’s cone-shaped food mill, so it would act as a sieve separating the honey from the beeswax. Placed in a sunny window, the warming honey began to pool, and find its escape route through the tiny holes of the vintage sieve. The slow-motion flow of honey was quite mesmerizing, an oozing rivulet of liquid gold seeking equilibrium slowly but surely. (Who needs TV?)

Video: Streaming Honey…

All in all, I gathered one gallon of honey over a two-day period. The saying, “Slower than honey in January” is well-based. I’ve yet to bottle it up, simply enjoying the fragrant tub of honey on my counter capturing the light and my imagination.

For this twelve pounds of honey is truly miraculous and a gift of gold; it represents:

  • 24 million flowers
    • bees gather nectar from 2 million flowers per pound
  • 660,000 bee air miles 
    • bees of one hive fly about 55,000 miles to gather the nectar needed for one pound of honey

Here’s to bees in your garden and honey on your toast!

A big thank you to my industrious winged wonders!
A big thank you to my industrious winged wonders!


  1. Tom, it is always such a delight and adventure for the girls to visit you on your farm! Thank you for letting them gouge out fistfuls of honey and giving of your time to us island visitors! That is a day for the memory bank!

    • Erin, here’s to your new hive and promise of bees and the gift of honey, although the just having bees around is enough. Some late afternoons, I’ll take a break (sweet tea in hand) and pull up a beat up lawn chair, and sit and watch the bees coming and going. The hive has its own personality, and through mere observation and presence, I’m drawn into their world of collective energy, purpose, and magic on the wing.

    • Eileen, then I’d have to come back as a triathlete, because you know the smells from your kitchen would keep me dropping by just in time to sample a slice of tart…plate of muffins…or tin of cookies. Though truth be told, it would be the good company I’d stay for. Bon appetit!

  2. Liquid gold for sure. Such a beautiful harvest and a great post Tom. Now I wish I could join you as you sit and watch the bees but they hold amazing power over me. I can’t see one without running from it (screaming). LOL

    • June I was the same way, well I didn’t run screaming, but I was trepidatious about bees and my reaction to their stings. Over the years, I’ve come to realize their gentle nature, though bee suits are fine attire for prolonged visits and hive openings. As long as you don’t block the entrance to the hive, that is stand directly in their flight pattern, taking off and landing, you’ll be ignore for most part. I stand to the side of the hive for my observations. Hope life is good on the coast! (Looks like it.)

  3. Hi Tom,
    I have a hive in the yard for the first time, and just released the queen yesterday. They are mesmerizing creatures, aren’t they?

    • They are indeed, Nikki! Here’s to your hive’s long life and sweet success. It’s quite a learning curve, but one that plays out like a lovely path of discovery.

  4. wow, bees and honey! I have been meaning to get into the beehive venture; the only problem is my sister-in-law told me her son who is 5 is allergic to mosquitoes so she is deathly afraid of bees. Wish I can still do it, though, it seems so magical. Your honey looks so pure and the color is so golden and beautiful/ wow

    • Joumana, perhaps there’s another option. There may be a beekeeper in your town, who would entertain the idea of sponsoring a hive by helping out with some of the costs of building or maintaining the hive. In exchange, the beekeeper supplies you with honey and you get visitation to the hive if you so desire. In Seattle, there are some beekeepers who do this. If not on your own property, then on theirs.

    • Hi Sylvie, so glad to hear from you. It’s been a while. Yes my bees are going gangbusters. Blackberry bloom is nectar-a-palooza around here for the bees. Hope you’re staying cool in Virginia!

  5. Hi Tom! I wonder if you ever have to heat your honey at any point in the process, like for pouring it into jars or some such? Mass honey producers always do that, I am curious if it’s all that necessary as they try to suggest…

    • Hi Olie, the only time I heat the honey is when it has crystallized and it is for my personal use. If the honey crystallizes in the comb, I leave it out for the bees to reclaim. And if I need warmer honey for pouring or bottling, I put the storage container with lid tight in a sunny window or in the greenhouse just enough to lessen viscosity. That usually does it, but I never heat it on the stove. Hope this helps!


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