Backyard beekeeping – 120 pounds of honey

Energy & Sustainability Science
Backyard beekeeping – 120 pounds of honey

treasure stolen gold
low the sun and busy bees
prepare for winter

We collected honey from our two backyard hives this fall and I’ve finally finished jarring it. The new hive, split from last year’s hive, produced over 20 pounds of honey. This is more than our first hive produced last year, but the older hive was not to be outdone.

Queen Ann, in the second year of her reign, ran a very productive operation. Her daughters produced some of the lightest, most delightful honey I’ve ever had. The water content is so low that it pours out like a sheet of glass, folding at the bottom like you might expect from taffy.


From Ann’s hive, we collected 100 pounds of honey, making the grand total 120 pounds between the two hives. This is the part we harvested. We leave enough behind for the bees to survive on during the long Minnesota winter, which amounts to another 80-100 pounds.

What’s incredible is that all of this honey is produced from the flowers, trees, and vegetable gardens within a 2-3 mile radius of the hives. Two years ago, before I began this hobby, I wouldn’t have thought this was possible in the city.


If you’re interested in starting a backyard hive next spring, this is what you can look forward to. The real challenge of this urban agricultural experiment is to figure out what to do with the harvest.

Backyard beekeeping – splitting a hive

14 thoughts on “Backyard beekeeping – 120 pounds of honey

  1. SKR says:

    What to do with all that honey? Well, you could either give it away, of course. But, considering that you will probably have 200 lbs. next year, you might want to try you hand at making mead (honey wine).

  2. Anonymous says:

    Brew 120 lbs of Mead! (or brew 119 lbs of mead and leave out one pound for sweetening your tea)

  3. John Park says:

    Wow, that’s impressive. It seems that all Makers in Minnesota keep bees. You, Bill Gurstelle, and Nick Watts from Twin Cities Public Televisions. Is it a coincidence? I don’t think so…

  4. Jason Striegel says:

    It must be something in the water. Based on all the comments, maybe we need a Minnesota Mead Maker club.

  5. Patti Schiendelman says:

    There’s Birdchick and Neil Gaiman, too.

    Wow, that’s a lot of honey! What makes the water content low or high?

  6. Jason Striegel says:

    Patti – I think the water content might be partly affected by the weather over the summer, but I think most of it has to do with what the bees are doing.

    Before they cap the honey off, the thousands of them will sit over the combs and fan their wings to reduce the moisture content. They do this because below a certain moisture level, the honey is incapable of sustaining any bacteria or yeast growth. So when they get the honey below like an 18% moisture content (if my recollection is correct), it will keep forever and not spoil or ferment. They need the honey stores to last throughout the winter and spring, so it’s pretty important for them to get the moisture content down before the cells are sealed up.

    The second hive wasn’t as dry as the first. When we harvested, they hadn’t capped some of the comb yet, so I think some of the honey was freshly produced and we got to things a bit before they were done with it.

  7. Rachel Hobson says:

    All the details are fine and good …. but I can’t take my eyes off of that gorgeous harvest. I’m drooling. It’s like Honey Heaven!

    (I’m a *big* fan of honey. B-I-G)

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