'The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams.'
Henry David Thoreau, 1817-1862
Warré Hives and Honey
We specialise in the production of pure varieties of Wild honey and honeycomb harvested from bee-friendly Warré hives in the Blue Mountains wilderness and woodland forests of the Central Tablelands, NSW, Australia.
Our holistic beekeeping practices surpass the national organic and International Demeter Biodynamic guidelines for apiculture. We call our honey ‘Wild’ for this reason, as it is produced in an entirely natural way; by wild bees in a wild environment and from 100% natural comb.
The central ethos of api-centric (bee-centred) beekeeping is that it provides for the needs of the bee colony above that of the beekeeper. Although this decision has been made for ethical reasons, we believe that the health and well-being of our bees greatly improves the quality and purity of the honey.
WARRÉ HIVES IN AUSTRALIA
We have been using bee-friendly Warré hives (‘The People’s Hive’) since 2009 and have modified the hives for Australian conditions. We now operate around 300 Warré hives and have found the design and bee-friendly management methods to be perfectly suited to any person wishing to successfully keep bees in a sustainable, ethical manner.
The Warré hive is named after its inventor, Abbé Émile Warré (1867-1951).
Responding to the obvious decline in beekeeping in France since his youth, Warré experimented with some 350 hives of various designs with the aim of producing a
hive that was simple, economical, bee-friendly and assured a surplus for the beekeeper.
The result was his People's Hive (Ruche Populaire) whose construction and operation
he described in his book Beekeeping For All (L' Apiculture Pour Tous, 12th edition).
Our custom Warré Hive designed for use in Australia
Abbé Emile Warré and assistant as pictured in Beekeeping for All (5th edition, 1923)
We became aware of the Warré hive and method in 2008 (when L’Apiculture Pour Tous was translated into English by David Heaf) and immediately recognised that it represented a paradigm shift in beekeeping – albeit over 50 years after Warré’s death.
As we were the first beekeepers to trial the Warré hive in Australia, we had to build all the hives ‘in-house’. For sustainability reasons and to closely mimic the type of timber found in tree hollows, all our Warré hives are hand made in the Blue Mountains from salvaged timber sourced from south east Australia. Fallen farm or garden trees are milled on site and the green planks are then air dried for a year. The dry, stable timber is then graded, dressed and crafted into long lasting Warré hives.
We had been experimenting with natural comb beekeeping in conventional Langstroth hives for several years but were immediately attracted to the key design elements and unique management techniques central to Warré’s hive and philosophy. We were particularly excited about how the hive would suit Australian beekeeping conditions. After populating the first Warré hive in Australia in 2009, we've observed the performance of the hive across different regions and seasons and have been impressed with the improved health and vitality of the bees and the quality of honey produced.
Warré Apiary on a honey flow in the Central Tablelands, 2018
Our central ethos is to care for the bees in a practical way and the Warré hive design and methods solve a lot of the problems that occur in the conventional Langstroth hive. All things being equal, we have found colonies in Warré hives to be healthier and more vigorous than colonies in other hive types; understandably vague terms that can only be supported by many years of experience as a commercial beekeeper using both Warré and Langstroth hives.
The nadiring concept alone has immense value for bees and beekeepers as it simplifies management and results in a healthy renewal of comb and reduction in brood diseases without disrupting the integrity of the nest. Compared to supering (adding boxes above the broodnest), nadiring places less physiological stress on the colony as the bees are not driven to replacing their food stores. Less physiological stress in animals is normally associated with a lower incidence of disease.
Colonies in Warré hives have a warm, dry, well insulated home made from natural materials (similar to that of a tree hollow, their natural home for millions of years). The increase in health and vitality of the bees was immediately obvious to us in 2009 and has evolved over the years, with new awareness each season of the positive attributes of the hive design and natural beekeeping methods.
Bees consume far less food in Warre hives due to the bee friendly, thermally efficient dimensions (30cm x 30cm), insulating quilt and triple roof. They are far less susceptible to succumb to brood diseases from bacteria, viruses and fungal spores as they put their energy into maintaining a healthy nest atmosphere practically free from the stress that occurs in conventional Langstroth hives (which have large dimensions, are poorly insulated and often made from unnatural materials).
Bees building virgin comb in one of our Warré hives
A swarm building comb in one of our Warré Boxes, Central Tablelands, NSW, 2010
The colonies grow at their own rate - largely determined by the bees own inherent strength and the availability of forage in the surrounding environment. Their growth is not forced by the beekeeper as happens in conventional apiculture, with pre-made combs, stimulative feeding, queen replacement and migration of colonies.
Our ethos is to promote natural, bee friendly and beekeeper friendly hives and methods that are supported by the latest scientific literature combined with our practical experience with hundreds of Warré hives across different bioregions.
BEE FRIENDLY HONEY HARVEST
Warré apiary, Central Tablelands
Honey harvests were limited for the first five years (2010 – 15) as we allowed the colonies to grow in strength and the apiaries to grow in size and number. Since 2015 we have been able to harvest small amounts of honey from our Warré hives without impacting the colonies in any way.
Generally speaking, we do not harvest honey from colonies in their first two seasons, an approach unheard of amongst commercial beekeepers. We have never fed any colonies, preferring instead to leave plentiful supplies of the bees’ own food at all times of the year. Therefore, honey is only taken when it is surplus to the requirements of the colony. Taking this approach has meant that we have never had a colony starve and can guarantee that any harvesting is in no way damaging to the colony.
Our Ethos is to learn from ‘the daughters of light’, the bees, and let them guide us in our work with them. The hive is a vessel which captures the surrounding environment, as foraging bees cover vast areas and bring different raw materials back to the nest to feed and aid the functioning of the superorganism. To produce a true ‘terroir’ honey, all the different components gathered by the bees should be present in the honey. The raw materials of nectar, pollen and resin are collected by the bees from the wild environments where our apiaries are located and are transformed into honey, bee bread and propolis inside the hive. All these elements and their unique properties are present in our wild honey (conventionally produced honey only contains nectar/honey and trace amounts of bee bread), giving the final product outstanding depth and complexity of flavour and impressive health benefits that are proven to be therapeutically beneficial.
Our apiaries are located in the World Heritage listed Blue Mountains and adjoining Central Tablelands – both are remarkable regions with incredible natural attributes that we aim to nurture and protect. This healthy relationship between humans, bees and environment yields medicinal wild honey, which we are honoured to be able to offer to the community as a distillation of our work.
One of our open Warre frames showing compact broodnest, wreath of bee bread and dome of honey
Virgin comb produced by bees showing stages of early use – fresh white comb, cells with nectar, capped honeycomb