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Natural Beekeeping -2 Day Course

February 16, 2019 @ 10:00 am - February 17, 2019 @ 4:00 pm


Course Outline

Natural beekeeping is a philosophy that places a strong emphasis on understanding the biology and ecology of natural hives, and then adapting management approaches that mimic these processes as closely as possible.  While this is often associated with Warre and Top Bar hives, in reality any hive design can be used, as natural beekeeping is an ethos and approach rather than a rigid prescription.

Natural beekeeping differs from the standard approach in three main ways:

  • Emphasis on natural processes for requeening and colony increase
  • Allowing natural comb to develop as much as possible
  • Avoiding excessive artificial interventions such as feeding

The course will include a combination of theoretical and practical learning to equip participants with the skills to manage their hives independently, with an emphasis on safety for both bees and beekeepers.

Course cost per student: $250

Number of students per course: 12

Course leader: Cormac Farrell

Tutors: Sarah Asls Sha’Non, John Grubb

Core competencies:

  • Honeybee biology and understanding how this applies to hive management
  • Honeybee ecology, including disease & pest interactions, how this applies to resolving them
  • Importance of natural honeycomb processes
  • Overview of hive designs & how to manage these in the natural system


Note: This is a ‘Flow Hive friendly’ course – all hive styles are welcome.


The following section provides an outline of course content, which will be supported by notes and course handouts.

What is an isn’t Natural Beekeeping (40 mins)

  • Understanding colony behaviour in the wild
  • Re-Queening, when the bees do it
  • Treatments – mythbusting about disease – all hives are at risk.
  • Feeding over winter and why it can send your management backwards
  • Hive design – the least important part (from a bees perspective!)

Managing natural comb development with different hive design (30 mins)

  • Top Bar
  • Warre
  • Langstrogh & Flow Hive

Colony Establishment (40 mins)

  • Bait hives
  • Swarms – both catching into a hive, and use of nucleus colonies
  • Shaken Swarm method to establish top bar hives

[First Field Inspection- approx. 1 hour]

Ongoing Management (1.5 hrs)

  • How natural comb should develop in the hive
  • Pests and Disease detection
    • AFB/EFB – critical, reportable diseases
    • Nosema – indication of stress, poor hive placement & genetics
    • Chalkbrood – importance of hive hygiene
    • Small Hive Beetle – preventing build-up and infestation
    • Wasps – non-toxic control methods
  • Extreme Temperatures
  • Theft/Vandalism

[Second Field Inspection – approx. 1 hour]

Hive Manipulation (1 hr)

  • Re-Queening, when to do it in the natural system
    • Manual searches
    • Warre – smoking through a screen
  • Merging colonies
  • When to let a colony die, and when to euthanise it
    • Winter starvation
    • Critical disease checks
    • Euthanasia methods

Tips & Tricks (1 hr)

  • Flow Hive
    • Starting supers (wax priming)
    • Managing cross-coming in foundationless supers
    • Critters- the good and the bad
  • Top Bar
    • Handling combs to reduce breakage
    • Managing lateral development of natural combs
    • Managing cross-combing
  • Warre Hive
    • Frame management & preparation
    • Naidiring vs supering to encourage constant natural comb renewal
    • Comb Breakage
    • Critters in the quilt box (ants, lizards, spiders, frogs)


About the course convener:

Cormac Farrell is a Canberra based beekeeper and environmental scientist with broad experience in beekeeping methods.  He is the immediate ex-President of ACT Beekeepers Association and is currently head beekeeper for the Australian Parliament.  He currently runs over a dozen hives throughout Canberra and the surrounding region, producing award-winning honey from Langstroth, Warre and Top-bar hives.


February 16, 2019 @ 10:00 am
February 17, 2019 @ 4:00 pm
Event Category:




Jerrabomberra Wetlands Apiary
2 Dairy Road Fyshwick
Canberra, 2609 Australia
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