Milkwood Farm’s first ever Warré Honey Harvest

| Harvesting, Natural Beekeeping | comments | Author :

I am incredibly excited to report that we’ve just harvested our first ever box of honey from one of our warré beehives. Whoohoo! We are now awash and dripping with organic warré honeycomb. Sweet.

The box we took is from the warré hive that had two colonies combined in it last year because of the terrible season. This hive is now incredibly strong and healthy, and building comb and storing honey like there’s no tomorrow.

The top of the second box – the bees had started joining the boxes together with comb, due to all the nectar available this season

We just took one box off the top of the hive as the second box down still had a small amount of brood at the bottom of the combs at this stage, so we’ll leave that box a little while longer.

As that brood hatches and exits the cells as the colony draws down through the hive into the box below, the bees will fill those cells with honey and there will be another box full of honey, ready to harvest.

Once we’d checked the frames from the top box to make sure there was no brood left, we took the box off the hive and set it aside. We then quickly lifted the other boxes up and nadired a empty box underneath the colony at the bottom of the hive.

This nadiring process is an important part of Warré beekeeping. The bee colony naturally draws down through the available cavity (ie the hive), storing it’s honey above the colony in a thermal dome. So by adding boxes at the bottom you’re allowing the colony to continue their preferred behaviour.

I will admit that as my first ever honey harvesting experience, it was a little scary. What if i get it wrong? Drop a box? Get the bees all angry?

Fortunately I had Olivier with me (cheers, Liv), and together we fumbled through the process to bring a full box of honey back to the woolshed. Without a single bee sting between us. Thanks, lovely bees!

In Autumn this year, universe and climate patterns willing, we expect to be harvesting quite a lot of honey. At that point we’re planning to have a good setup for pressing the honey from the comb. At this point though, we’ll just store and eat the honeycomb itself. I don’t think it will last long, as it’s just too good.

Organic honeycomb from a warré hive might just be the best thing I’ve ever eaten. Because it’s all natural comb (ie without thick wax or plastic foundation between the cells) you can eat the whole darn thing.

And because there are no chemicals whatsoever used in our beekeeping practice (or on our farm, of course), it’s pretty close to pure, medicinal strength, heaven.

The full frames (top bars with sides) of honey, ready to be sliced off in a slab.
Slabs of beautiful warré honeycomb. Yumity yum.

A particularly fine slab of honeycomb full of multi-coloured pollen. A super-duper nutrition hit!
Milkwood crew eating fresher-than-fresh honeycomb…

Many thanks to Milkwood intern Olivier Sofo for braving the bees with me, and thanks to the bees themselves.

And thanks to Tim Malfroy, master Warré beekeeper, for his mentorship, generosity and ongoing moral support of our joint Warré apiary at Milkwood Farm.

Warré beekeeping? Natural Beekeeping? Want to skill up and get started? Join us at a Natural Beekeeping course. We’ll even share some honeycomb with you…

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10 responses to “Milkwood Farm’s first ever Warré Honey Harvest

  1. Your lovely pictures make me think of the single solitary advantage I can see to supering (instead of nadiring) and that is that you get pure, white honey comb, not the slightly browner stuff that has had bee brood in it. The ex-brood comb can occasionally be unpleasant to eat, due to the silk left behind when the bees emerge.

    1. Yeah I know that’s a consideration for some, but in this first harvest we’re keen to get our heads (and our tastebuds) around all the possibilities of the bounty – haven’t found that to be the case (re unpleasant taste) as of yet tho. Also I think the myriad of significant disadvantages to the bee colony by supering (ie placing boxes on top) are more than enough to argue against it… especially in Aus when we have the largest honeyflows in the world (thanks, eucalypts) and there’s usually opportunities to harvest boxes of virgin comb in a good year… we will definitely be crushing the comb for honey in harvests to come, but at this stage we’re wanting to taste and experience everything we can…

  2. Best quality honey and comb comes from new foundation that has been filled with honey and capped. Sections are down graded even with one cell filled with pollen. Comb is to be pure white with medium to light honey enclosed.
    Section honey is difficult to get right but can be managed when there is a good nectar flow.

    1. In western commercial honey markets, yes this is the case. But in many more traditional honey markets (parts of Turkey, for example) having pollen in the comb or honey in brood comb is seen as a very good and highly desirable thing, because of the extra loadings of enzymes and other things present…

      In some cultures, it is the brood comb with brood still inside that is the most prized (eaten for protein)… don’t think we’ll be going there but still it shows there’s many ways to approach a honeycomb harvest!

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