After a year of keeping bees, I had pretty well forgotten that the reason most people get into this is for the honey.

    Ostensibly, the bees work for the beekeeper, but as a beginner this concept got reversed for me, so I spent my time worrying about the bees and feeling inadequate about the state of the hives. I watched a lot of Youtube videos and read some books, but I never shook my apprehension. Overly swathed in protective clothing, I would hold my breath each time I opened the hives, afraid of finding they had been robbed, parasites had taken over, or a queen had died.

    This weekend was an epiphany. Heart pounding like usual, I cracked open the hives to discover honey- lots and lots of it. Over a hundred pounds altogether, mainly from the stronger of the two hives. Frame after frame of capped honey came out of the supers, and by yesterday afternoon it had all been extracted and strained, and enough jars scrounged to contain it.

    I’m still amazed by what happened. A single bee can produce only a twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime. The honey I took represents the output of a whole civilization of bees, and yet they continue on. They’ve cleaned out any remaining residue in the empty comb and are already starting to rebuild it again. If I’m lucky I can harvest again in the fall, if the colony increases and they have enough time and enough workers to replace all the wealth I just stole.


    Check NewsWorks Tuesday June 7 for a news feature on an organized urban honey venture in Northwest Philadelphia.

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