Autumn Natural Beekeeping Course… Honey Harvest Time!

Last weekend we held our annual Autumn Natural Beekeeping course at Milkwood Farm. We got to harvest Warré honeycomb for eating, press a bunch of stored honeycomb, and check one of the Warré hives as part of the course. It was an amazing two days with a great crew of folks…

Tim Malfroy and the class at our Warré Apiary...

I really felt a sense of the ‘bounty of Autumn’ this weekend with all the bees a-buzzing, honeycomb harvesting, and being able to feed everyone who came with the Autumn delights coming from our organic market garden.

In addition to the practical aspects, Tim Malfroy presented a great weekend of solid knowledge about natural beekeeping, bee biology, colony biology, the history of beekeeping, how to start natural beekeeping, different sorts of honey and comb, what bees need, how to deal with disease and pests naturally, the pollination crisis and CCD.  Whew.

Getting smokey. While we keep use of smoke to a minimum during a hive visit, it's a safety stopgap in case something goes wrong, and good to have on hand, just in case...

Opening the hive

The underside of a full box of natural comb, drawn out by the bees from the top bars...

Tim shows the class a comb showing healthy brood patterning...

Tim shows students a comb of half virgin, half brood comb, that the bees have just finished filling with honey

Back in the woolshed, it's time to talk about honeycomb in all it's intricacy, and press some comb for honey

Honeycomb! Stored from the last harvest we did at the start of February, in readiness for this pressing

Tim loads up the honey press with comb

Warré honey (also called wild honey) being pressed from the natural comb - with all the enzymes intact, full of pollen and propolis... this is as good as it gets!

As a special treat, we harvested a comb of capped honey during the hive visit to eat that afternoon in class

Warré honeycomb all cut up and ready to munch. The lighter comb is virgin honeycomb, and the darker comb has had brood cycle through it, but now contains honey.

Everyone got a piece of both the virgin and the brood comb - two very different flavors. The virgin comb is light and melts in your mouth, the brood comb is slightly stronger and more nutty and textured in flavor... perfect with a bit of ricotta and some fresh apple...

An empty Skep hive that Tim shows as part of his session on traditional beekeeping of various cultures. A beautiful object, woven from reeds...

We’ve learned so much about natural beekeeping this year, and next year will be different again. It’s proving to be a fascinating journey full of implications for how we relate to the world we live in, and how much better we could do to find a balance that still bears a harvest.

Tim will be teaching more Natural Beekeeping courses in the Spring and beyond at Milkwood Farm and in Sydney. The courses fill up very quickly and are suited to anyone serious about wanting to do best-practice natural beekeeping in urban or rural settings.

Many thanks to all the students who came to our farm from far and wide for this weekend – it was great to meet you all! Big thanks to Tim Malfroy for his tireless commitment to best-practice natural beekeeping, to Olivier for the amazing food, and to Trev for his awesome co-ordination. And to our 120,000 or so lady bees (and the drones too).


  1. Ken Robinson
    Posted March 21, 2012 at 10:21 am | Permalink | Reply

    Have you thought of trying our native stingless bees?.
    Information at
    I am about to try these tropical types, they are called SUGARBAG up here.

    • Posted March 21, 2012 at 11:09 am | Permalink | Reply

      Ah we’d love to have trigona (stingless social native bees) but they don’t live where we are, too cold in the winter for them – we do have the blue banded bee here, but it’s a solitary type. Tim does do a session on native stingless social bees however, and the apiary that our sydney courses visit has a trigona hive there… best of luck!

  2. Posted March 21, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I so wish I lived anywhere near you. Your posts are so inspiring. Thanks for fighting the good fight and kudos for enjoying it so and capturing such great pics!

  3. The Forager
    Posted March 21, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

    How much are you leaving the bees with for winter? I have one of Tim’s hives in a similar area and am wondering what they can spare me.

    • Posted March 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Hey there, we’ll leave them one full box of honey above the brood to winter on, that should be fine till things start flowering again in September/October, though Spring here (due to our altitude) doesn’t really get underway until November…

      • Posted March 21, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

        Thanks Kirsten – I think I will get a couple of combs out after all!

  4. brian kearins (kearo)
    Posted March 23, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Well what a great weekend at Milkwood my thanks to Nick & Kirsten and the staff,the woofers,the students & thanks to Tim Malfroy for a fun and enlightening weekend full of BEES & HONEY.I hope to return in the future and do another course,so until the creek drops thank you all for a great time,Regards Brian.

    • Posted March 24, 2012 at 9:43 am | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for coming, Brian!

    • Ian R McCarthy
      Posted March 26, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Permalink | Reply

      G’day Brian

      Sorry I missed you at the end of the course, I was on a mission to start home…If your ever throught Holbrook give me a call 0417402265…would love to catch up…I will be putting a hive in…just working out where and whether I elevate it up to the top of the carport and all the associated issues with that..Take care and keep healthy…Ian

  5. Maree
    Posted May 26, 2013 at 9:10 am | Permalink | Reply

    Hello. Firstly, thank you for all the wonderful information contained on your site and in these articles. I am considering a Warre hive and am a little confused by a frame Tim is holding above (photo 4th from the end). Through reading your posts, it seems side bars are added to the top bar to meet Australian requirements, however the photograph shows a bottom bar as well. Is there a particular reason for that? Thank you, in advance.

    • Posted May 26, 2013 at 10:10 am | Permalink | Reply

      Hey Maree, yep this particular frame has a bottom bar on it because it is a frame from the original nucleus box, which Tim delivered the colonies in. For the frames in this nucleus box he made frames with four sizes to minimise the chance of comb breakage during travel, as the bees would naturally build comb to all four sides. This particular frame is still in the hive and going strong – hope that makes sense!

  6. Posted May 28, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Maree- A year later- LOL! You can use a frame in a Warré/”People’s Hive.” Warré did feel a slightly larger box was due to account for the space lost due to the frame. Yahoo has an eList, WarreBeeKeeping, which has a free eBook that describes this in detail. Some use a “half-frame” and do not increase the hive size. I have increased about 1/2 a comb-space width to make room for a 9th TopBar &/or account for half frames, which I have not yet used.

  7. Maree
    Posted June 2, 2013 at 11:41 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thank you Kirsten, that explains it! Bill, thanks for your information.
    Much appreciated, both of you.

  8. Maree
    Posted June 2, 2013 at 11:42 am | Permalink | Reply

    PS, can hardly wait to get started!!

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