I recently attended a two-day natural beekeeping course organised by Milkwood at The Farm in Byron Bay. As you might recall, I already have a hive in my backyard, and I did this course to become more comfortable with managing the bees. I wish to eventually have a hive in Australia, now is not the time as I’m mostly away and the hives will require inspection every two weeks or so.
How this differs to conventional beekeeping is that it refers to the Warre hive instead of the commonly used Langstroth hive, which has different dimensions and style of set up, and our trainer Tim Malfroy also favours as little intervention as possible. This means no antibiotics, chemicals and sugar syrup in the hives.
Tim shared that from his experience, bees seemed happier in Warre hives, meaning they weren’t aggressive and the hives smelt better. Warre hives boxes are smaller, and contains a bag of sawdust to help regulate heat and humidity. Honey bees prefer a temperature of 35 degrees celsius within the hive, and will either generate heat to raise the temperature, or help fan heat out to cool it. I’ve seen the latter situation with my own hive, the bees mainly gather on the outside of the hive and seem quite busy in the evenings.
One appalling thing I’d learnt is that lots of commercial beekeepers use antibiotics to counter American Foulbrood (AFB) disease, and its residues can end up in the honey. Also, just because honey is certified organic doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been exposed to GM crops, as bee boxes are moved around to catch the “honey flow”. This made me think of how the use of antibiotics could also affect beeswax and how it’s commonly used in skincare products.
I greatly enjoyed the course, which included tons of information and some time with Tim’s hives. We also got to taste his Malfroy’s Gold honey at the end of the course, which is used at high end restaurants, including Tetsuya’s. I bought a 1kg bottle of honey from him, and it’s now my favourite honey, I should’ve bought more, since the Blue Mountains is a long way from Northern New South Wales, and we had a discounted rate during the course, plus honey lasts forever anyway.
Here are some photos from the course.
Great course, great setting, and a great experience overall. I’ll post a brief write up on The Farm soon, they make the best organic soy chai lattes, using tea by Mayde Tea. Pricier than other brands at $17 a box, but worth it!