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photo © Eric Tourneret

'For thousands of years they have constructed their marvelous combs, to which we can add nothing, from which we can take nothing;
combs that unite in equal perfection the science of the chemist, the geometrician, the architect and the engineer’
The Life of the Bee , Maurice Maeterlinck, 1901


What is Wild Honey?

Honey is a perfect food and natural medicine in its wild state. As opposed to industrially produced honey, Wild Honey is produced by wild bees, the apiaries situated permanently in wild environments, the bees housed in wild type (natural comb) hives and the colonies are allowed to function with minimal human intervention. It has been proven scientifically that genuine wild honey has a different flavour, texture and chemical composition to conventionally produced honey.

Most honey currently sold in Australia (including ‘raw’ or ‘organic’ honey) is produced in a modern industrial system designed to increase yield - often at the expense of the bees, health of the environment and the quality and nutritional integrity of the end honey products.

Please visit Natural Beekeeping for in depth information on how Wild honey is produced in our Warre hives in Australia and for further details about this unique style of bee-friendly apiculture.

HOLISTIC APICULTURE

Since 2006 we have been producing artisan Wild Honey and practising Natural Beekeeping, an alternative and ethical approach to apiculture that focuses on bee health over honey yield.

We populate our hives with wild swarms of bees from the isolated Blue Mountains and Central Tablelands regions and house them in our bee-friendly, customised Australian Warré hives. The hive design, and our apicultural management philosophy, attempts to mimic the nest architecture and natural functioning of a wild bee colony in a tree hollow.
Malfroy's Gold Central Tablelands Terroir
Central Tablelands Terroir
Malfroy's Gold Post Brood Warré Honey Jars Rob Locke
Malfroy's Gold, Wild Honey Range, 2021, photo © Rob Locke
Our apiaries are permanently situated in wilderness and woodland regions - far away from the contaminating influences of urban environments and industrial agriculture. We do not re-use comb, migrate hives constantly, feed bees any form of supplement (sugar syrup, artificial pollen etc), practice intensive breeding or treat the bees and hives with chemicals - methods that most conventional beekeepers engage in to increase yield.

Therefore our yields are lower than conventional or industrial beekeeping operations and are subject to seasonal conditions. Any genuine surplus honey the bees produce in a good season is harvested gently and either sold as Wild Honeycomb or Wild Honey (which is cold strained from virgin comb and bottled into glass jars).

The bees living in our apiaries are part of the wider population of bees and are in tune with the environment; a true symbol of terroir.

In recent years the term ‘superorganism’ has been used to describe the bee colony, most memorably in ‘The Buzz about Bees: Biology of a Superorganism’ by Jürgen Tautz. Natural Beekeepers embrace this way of thinking and tend to regard each bee as part of the greater whole, rather than merely an individual insect.

Using this new understanding and knowledge of the bee colony, Natural Beekeeping attempts to mimic the natural nest structure of the wild bee colony and give every opportunity for the superorganism to thrive, communicate effectively, and become resilient to disease and changing environmental conditions, whilst still retaining an element of the ‘keeping’ of bees – that of human involvement.

METHODS

Malfroy's Gold Tim Warré Apiary Blue Mountains Eric Tourneret
Tim beekeeping in one of his Blue Mountains Warré Apiaries, 2015, photo © Eric Tourneret
'The comb and the wax from which it is constructed are not only entirely produced by the bees, but also an inseparable part of their lives.' Jürgen Tautz

NATURAL COMB

We believe it is the birthright of bees to build their own comb. Bees spend at least 90% of their lives on the comb inside the hive and the comb itself is a multi-functional living space. The comb can be thought of as the skeleton, skin, womb and liver of the colony, and also acts as a communication network, contributor to social immunity and functions as an extended gut of the colony. The wax used by bees to build the comb is exuded from the bees' bodies - a metabolic process of renewal for the individual bee and the honeybee superorganism.
Despite the importance of virgin comb to bees, the standard method used by beekeepers is to economise this natural process by giving the bees re-used frames of drawn comb from previous seasons or ‘foundation’ - sheets of beeswax or plastic with embossed hexagonal cell size patterns which give the bees a uniform cell size and starter for their wax-building. Although this usually results in a larger honey harvest, the bees cannot communicate as effectively in this system and are unable to construct, modify, or renew their living quarters.

The uniform cell size of foundation is designed to result in a large population of worker bees - an industrial-era method geared to increase honey yield. However, this technique dramatically reduces the drone (male) population in each hive and although this method results in a higher honey yield for the beekeeper, the long term effect is an ever diminishing gene pool and reduction in adaptation and resilience in the wider population of bees. Natural comb beehives allow the bees to build their own comb and determine their own population mix.
Malfroy's Gold Warré Box of Virgin Comb and Fresh White Beeswax
Colony building fresh virgin comb in a Warré hive, 2020
Unfortunately, many beekeepers use chemicals to treat pests and diseases in their hives. Given that beeswax is a highly absorptive substance there is great potential for chemical residue to build up in the comb over time.

Additionally, if bees are located on agricultural sites and visiting conventional crops, or even in highly urbanised environments, there is a significant risk they could be carrying toxic chemicals back to the hive which are also absorbed in the beeswax. This results in sub-lethal effects on the bees and toxic residues in the honey products.
A scoping study in the US in 2010 found a staggering 121 different types of pesticides in beeswax samples, and a recent study in Sydney found traces of lead, arsenic, zinc and manganese in Sydney urban hives.
Malfroy's Gold natural comb full of drone brood
Natural comb allows bees to determine the mix of genders in the colony. This photo shows a comb with drone (male) brood.
To make matters worse, the beeswax harvested from hives is sold to beeswax processors and re-distributed throughout the beekeeping industry in the form of foundation (sheets of beeswax which are used in conventional beekeeping to give the bees a foundation on which to build their combs), leading to the potential further spread of chemical residues. A feedback loop is formed with cumulative sub-lethal effects on bees, often resulting in drone infertility, failing queens and tainted honey.
In our attempt to keep bees naturally and mimic the workings of a wild bee colony, we let our bees build their own comb. The comb in the hive is constantly renewed and is therefore always pure. Our hives are placed in wilderness locations, far from conventional flowering crops, urban centres and other beekeepers. We can therefore guarantee that our honey is not only pure and free from chemicals, but also minimises stress on the bees and prevents disease and chemical build-up in the hive.

COLD PRESSING vs EXTRACTING

Malfroy's Gold Award Winning Post Brood Wild Honey Chris Court
Malfroy's Gold Award Winning Post Brood Polyflora Wild Honey, photo © Chris Court, 2020
Malfroy's Gold Pressing Wild Honeycomb Frames Wild Honey
Pressing and straining Wild Honeycomb frames during a demonstration for Milkwood Natural Beekeeping Students, photo © Kirsten Bradley, 2012
Our honey is genuinely cold pressed or cold strained from 100% natural comb. We are the only commercial beekeepers in Australia offering honey produced in this manner and are one of only a small number of commercial beekeepers in the world using this method. This pre-industrial technique is labour intensive and time-consuming but yields a honey of exceptional quality and purity.

One of the reasons for the difference in quality is the fact that honey is hygroscopic - meaning that it absorbs moisture from the environment. When beekeepers extract honey using a centrifuge, the honey is flung out in small droplets, increasing the surface area exposure to the environment. In the process, the honey may lose some of its remarkable natural aromatic qualities and volatile organic compounds (VOC). These compounds 'contribute to the biomedical activities of honey, especially the antioxidant effect'*. In addition, conventional honey is often heated beyond ‘beehive temperature’ (35°C) to speed the extraction or bottling process, further damaging these unique properties and denaturing enzymes.
Pressing or straining honey that is produced from natural comb preserves the integrity and health benefits of this natural product. Studies show that pressed honey has a higher nutritional content than extracted honey across all parameters.

Within an article published in Food Chemistry Journal in 2017, the authors concluded that the 'Nutritional contents (total carbohydrates, total lipids, total proteins, flavonoids, and ascorbic acid) and minerals (K, Ca, Mg, Na, Fe, Li, Zn) were higher in pressed honey. The quantity of pollen in pressed honey samples was 5.6-fold higher than in centrifuged (extracted) samples.'

* Volatile Compounds in Honey: A Review on Their Involvement in Aroma, Botanical Origin Determination and Potential Biomedical Activities, International Journal of Molecular Sciences, Various Authors, December, 2011

NATURALLY COMB-RIPENED

Malfroy's Gold Open Warré Frame Wild Honey, Central Tablelands
An open Warré frame of Wild Honey, Central Tablelands, 2011
When honey is ready for storage inside the hive, the bees will cap the cells of honey.

This honey is properly ripened by the bees and will not spoil.

We take great care to only harvest 100% properly ripened combs of honey by hand.

This is not possible for large scale commercial beekeepers who are harvesting tonnes of honey in a single day. Bees are often cleared out of boxes with leaf blowers, causing mayhem in the apiaries and potential for disease transfer. Honey is often harvested right down to the queen excluder, leaving little food for the colony and over stimulating the foraging response of the colonies as they strive to replace their food stores.

In contrast, we only harvest from colonies with a genuine surplus to share, always leaving plentiful supplies for the bees. We use ‘clearer boards’ to harvest the boxes – a gentle approach that does not disturb the colony.

Taking these labour intensive measures results in a high quality product, as honey from properly ripened combs has a superior flavour and body to that from partially ripened combs. Our honey has a very low moisture content and a concentrated flavour profile with heady aromas – an end result that is appreciated by honey lovers and some of the most acclaimed chefs in Australia.

WARRE POST-BROOD HONEY

Malfroy's Gold Lone Bee on Post Brood Wild Honeycomb Frame
Fully capped Post Brood Wild Honeycomb from one of our Warré hives, 2021
Malfroy's Gold Warré Box of Post Brood Wild Honeycomb Frames
Box of Warré Post Brood Wild Honey Combs
Warré hives also yield a very special type of honey due to the ‘nadiring’ method that is unique to this style of apiculture. Empty boxes are given beneath the developing cluster and as the colony grows downwards the bees backfill the uppermost combs (that previously housed brood) with nectar. Over time – if the colony continues to expand due to good health and abundant forage - multiple boxes of post brood honeycomb may sit above the broodnest, of which some may be harvested.

he post-brood combs that are harvested from the top of the hive have been present in the colony for up to 5 years and have a high quantity of propolis (plant kino/resin gathered and modified for use in the hive by the bees) and bee-bread (pollen that has been gathered and processed/fermented inside the hive by the bees). The combs have come through the broodnest over time and contain the essence of both the surrounding environment (phytochemical) and the bee colony superorganism (entomological), adding another dimension of taste and medicinal activity to the honey.
Malfroy's Gold Cross Section of Post brood Wild Honeycomb
Cross section of a piece of Post Brood Wild Honeycomb, 2021
Malfroy's Gold Warré frame of Post Brood Wild Honey and Bee bread
Warré frame of Post Brood wild honey and bee bread, Blue Mountains, 2021
Recent independent laboratory results have shown that post brood honey from our Warré hives has a pollen count that is 60 times higher than organic ‘raw’ honey and a ‘medicinal activity’ ranging from TA10+ to TA25+ across all regions and seasons (equivalent to UMF 10+ to UMF 25+ and MGO 263+ to MGO 1200+).
David Heaf’s article Bee Guided Pharmacognosy details the results found in Warré hive honey samples in UK honey research and suggests that the medicinal activity found in the post brood honey may stem from entomological as well as phytochemical processes. Interestingly, Australian researchers have proposed a similar line of thinking when describing the medicinal activity of honey from Tetragonula carbonaria native bees in Australia.

For more information about the process of post-brood honey, please read an article about our collaboration with Wildflower Brewing on their beer called Hive: Post Brood.

Any new research or results about this very special type of honey will be added to the Articles and Research page. Stay tuned!

NATURALLY HARVESTED

When we harvest the full boxes of honey (always taking care to leave enough for the bees), we first select the most visually attractive combs to be sold as pure Wild Honeycomb.

The remaining comb is cold pressed, settled and the resulting Wild honey is then bottled in glass jars.

The post-brood honey is generally harvested once near the end of the season, when we are preparing the hives for the cooler months. Once pressed or strained, we bottle the honey immediately into glass jars. On particularly cold days, we gently warm the honey to 22°C to bottle.



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