My family did not start keeping bees for the honey - despite the fact that our whole family loves the sticky-sweet liquid gold.

I’m a hands-on learner, so my motivation was to really understand all of the potential lessons honey bees have to teach us. My husband, John, started with a strong desire to help restore honey bee populations. In our first year, he rescued dozens of colonies from water meters, people’s homes, trees, you name it!

Beekeeping is also a lot of work. But the first time we harvested honey — WOW! It really brings all of the magic to life.

The first thing we learned is that you can harvest honey with no tools - just your hands OR you can invest in a few smart tools.

The first little piece of honeycomb we brought in presented us with challenges. Can you crush all that hard honey bee work to release the thick liquid? We managed and the reward was SWEET!

If you just have one hive, you can easily crush and strain your honey - which is exactly as it sounds. You put the comb in a strainer and crush it to release the honey. Our bee family grew quickly and now we have about 30 hives.

The tools we use that make the harvest manageable include:

  • Serrated Knife > we use an offset knife to cut the caps off the honey cells. We’re careful to catch the cappings and strain the honey they contain.
  • Honey “Rake” > this is a little comb looking tool that lets you remove the caps from corners and nooks.
  • Stainless bowls & pans > Honey cleans up easily with warm water. We always keep a bowl of warm water handy to rinse hands and tools.
  • Filter (Strainer) > We use a fine mesh sieve that catches the little wax particles and any stray bee parts. Most folks just buy paint strainers at the hardware store
  • Extractor > This is a large stainless drum with a rack inside that holds the frames. A motor spins the frames and slings the honey out of the cells
  • Bucket with Honey Gate > You drain the honey from the extractor through a filter into a bucket. The honey gate is made to stop and start the flow of honey for packaging.

Learn more in our Beekeeping Tools 101 video.

Harvesting Honey 101

One reason honey bees are so important to our food system is that they are productive. If nectar is bountiful, they make far more honey than they need for the colony to survive. That’s because in nature there are predators - like bears - who LOVE to steal their food.

Because we manage our hives and protect them from predators, once a season WE get to be the bears! We’re always very careful to leave plenty of honey on each hive to carry them through the winter. And when nature doesn’t make enough resources, we provide a pollen supplement or sugar water to make sure their colony thrives.

Everyone in our family loves honey. I add a dash to my morning chai. My son loves a drizzle on his yogurt. And my husband sweetens his coffee with honey. I’ve learned to reduce refined sugar and substitute honey in lots of baked goods. My favorites are honey cardamom cookies and fig and honey jam with fruit from our backyard tree! Learn how you can make the honey swap.

We LOVE sharing our honey bee bounty with friends and even selling a little locally. Every time I open a jar I say a little grace for healthy bees and bountiful forage.

When you think about the THOUSANDS of flowers one honey bee has to visit to make just 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey…it humbles the effort we put in!

So grateful for these superheroes of the food system!