Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Two Natural Beekeeping Hives on Order

On 14th and 15th April I attended a Natural Beekeeping Course at Alexandria in Sydney organised by Milkwood Permaculture and presented by Tim Malfroy. Tim owns and runs his own beekeeping business not that far from Blayney and Bathurst which he calls ‘Malfroy’s Gold’.

Some of the factors that influenced my decision to attend the course included:
  • We have ample trees here on Ochre Arch like Yellow Box that are known for producing nectar and pollen from which honeybees make excellent honey
  • During spring last year a bloke from Bathurst had 60 hives here. From this two major lessons were learned: 1. I’m not allergic to bees, having been stung at one stage when about 50 metres from the hives mowing firebreaks 2. Some beekeepers are lousy when it comes to giving landholders a share of the honey they harvest while their hives are on farms. Whilst we are happy to help others in their commercial endeavours we don’t enjoy being used – which in hindsight we feel we were by the bloke who had bees here in the spring.
  • Off the back of the above point we figure we might as well have our own hives which we will run for commercial gain if we find we can harvest sufficient quantities.
  • Jan suffers from hay-fever and from what we are told eating honey from local hives can help reduce allergic reactions to pollens. This is because the bees make their honey from tree species that can cause hay-fever.
  • We do enjoy taking on new challenges, and attending courses is always fabulous for learning new things and broadening networks and friendships.
  • Owning and managing hives under the Natural Beekeeping system requires minimal effort, aligns with natural cycles and processes, and is low cost. This is entirely consistent with our holisticgoal, especially when considering that there is zero need to plant additional trees or provide additional inputs into the landscape.
  • My mother’s father used to maintain honey bee hives when my mother was growing up and the experience of harvesting and eating the outputs was always a source of enjoyment.

One of our local wildlife enthusiasts did attempt to talk me out of attending the course, arguing that honeybees are not native to Australia and occupy hollows that could be used by native fauna. Whilst the argument is valid and we do highly value native biodiversity we already have honeybee colonies on the farm. I have also had one neighbour inform me we will not have any success in keeping bees due to the affects of chemicals used regularly in various farming activities. This may prove to be the case but we’d rather try and possibly fail than die wondering.

20 people attended the course at Alexandria, travelling from as far afield as Geelong in Victoria. Tim is an engaging and incredibly knowledgeable presenter, making the whole experience a complete pleasure.

The program also included a visit to a residential property in Sydney where two beehives are maintained. In this photo you can see one of the hives presently set-up in the chook-pen in the backyard. Apparently chooks and bees are a great natural fit as the chooks take no notice of the bees but help with pest control.

In this photo you can see one of the frames of honey being held by Tim for us all to see what goes on in the hive.

I don’t propose to go into all the details of what Tim taught us during the course in this post but plan on writing articles as we learn and experience more. That said, here are two excellent reference sources that give both the detail and an insight into what’s involved:
1. Link to a free PDF copy on the Malfroy’s Gold website of the main authoritative text book on natural beekeeping titled ‘Beekeeping for All’ by AbbĂ© WarrĂ©
2. Link to the Milkwood Permaculture ‘warre’ website tag where Kirsten Bradley and Nick Ritar have posted numerous articles complete with photographs on managing bees using the techniques Tim teaches and equipment he manufactures

We have just ordered two hives from Tim which we hope to have ready for bees to occupy in early spring of this year. The plan at this stage is to have one at the front of the farm in among the Yellow Box trees and another up the back in among the White and Grey Box trees.


Steve W said...

Hi Phillip
Nice review of the course. Susan and I would also highly recommend this course to anyone interested in beekeeping. It was well worth the trek from Clifton Springs near Geelong!
Steve Williams

Jaqi Pascoe said...

So how's it going? Do you have bees yet?

Phillip Diprose said...

Sadly still nothing, Jaqi. We've one hive here near the house set up but unoccupied and another on a farm out the Cowra Road - still empty.