Welcome to Sue and Mick's Natural Beekeeping blog.

Sue started beekeeping with our neighbour, Jim in this beautiful coastal village of Welcombe on the North Devon/Cornwall border. They both decided to start beekeeping in 2009 and began to attend apiary meetings of the Holsworthy Beekeepers Association. They signed up for the course they were running over the winter and started this, along with another neighbour, Richard, in January 2010.
It was a very good course, but they were all uncomfortable with some aspects of conventional beekeeping. They then came across Phil Chandler and his Barefoot Beekeeper book and website. This way of beekeeping uses Top Bar Hives which are the type used all over Africa, The Caribbean and many other places in the world. They predate the conventional hives that are used in most developed countries by hundreds of years. The bees build natural comb onto top bars and are managed with as little intervention as possible.
Sue and Jim realised that The Yarner Trust, in our own village, was running a Natural Beekeeping course, with Phil as tutor, in April 2010, what a coincidence ( or is it synchronicity? ). Anyway they both signed up and Yarner asked if they would be prepared to look after the bees for the courses and house them in Sue's field. Jim and Sue decided to say yes and the hunt was on for a nucleus of bees that would be ready in time for the course.
This was not an easy task. No one knew, at that stage, how their colonies had fared over the severe winter and most people had a long list of people already for their nucleii. Beekeeping has become very popular recently with many people realising that bees are in trouble and need our help. Also, as they learned more, they realised that there was a lot of prejudice amongst some conventional beekeepers against Top Bar Beekeeping. Oh dear 'politics', even in beekeeping! This, unfortunately, meant that some beekeepers said they wouldn't sell bees to go in a Top Bar Hive. They also needed a couple of hives to start the apiary off.
After a couple of months of phone calls and headaches Phil managed to source a nucleus of bees and Dave Baker, one of the Yarner Trustees, made 2 Top Bar Hives. So, they were off!
The weekend course with Phil went ahead and was great. Sue & Jim were now very 'green' beekeepers. They had quite a lot of problems over the first 2 months, mostly to do with the fact the bees were in conversion from 1/2 Dadant frames to Top Bars. They then got a second nucleus, which were on Top Bars already. These came from Heather Bell bees on the Lizard.
They began keeping a small book, with notes to each other, in the hive. It served as a record of everything they did and how the bees were doing. Unfortunately there was a leak in the roof of one of the hives and the book got wet. Hence the birth of this blog. They added all the notes from the book on here and have since used this as the record of the progress of the apiary.
In May 2013 Jim moved to Herefordshire and we agreed to change the name of the blog to Sue and Mick's Natural Beekeeping as, over the past year, Mick has become more and more interested in and involved with the bees.

Phil Chandler (The Barefoot Beekeeper) website which has links to UK courses and Phil's books etc:

Heather Bell bees - source of Top Bar nucleii although very expensive. It's probably better to try and catch a swarm locally:

Black Native Queens:

Varroa Mesh:
Flash band for hive roof:

Shellac flakes or buttons, they also sell thinner:

Shellac thinner for making up a shellac coating for the inside of a hive, they also sell shellac:

Good quality affordable suits and equipment:

Top Bar hive tools:

Top Bar Hives and Nucleus Boxes:

Paul Holdaway, in our village, makes the hives and nucleus boxes shown in our blog post of 24th March 2017 - the picture taken in the hall. His phone number is 01288 331252

Friday, 6 September 2013

Friends of the Bees meeting and harvesting honey

First of all some sad news. The swarm we caught from The Dolphin hive unfortunately died, we are not sure why. We fed them after hiving them, but then their numbers reduced dramatically over the next couple of weeks. We think the most likely cause is that we somehow lost the queen when we caught them. Another explanation could be that for some reason she didn't start laying quickly enough and the flying bees she left with would have started dying off naturally, within a couple of weeks. So we still only have one colony, but what lovely bees! They did send off at least one cast that we know of (it escaped) and maybe more that we didn't see, but they are thriving. They have loads of honey and we were able to take some off, with difficulty. This is because they still have a very "creative" comb building habit. This is clearly not a problem to them, but it means we have great difficulty doing any sort of inspection, without causing damage. Therefore we mostly leave them alone and observe from the outside. We are hoping to remove some of their "creative" comb in the late winter and try to encourage a straighter pattern. The periscope entrance seems to be helping them defend against wasps well and we are going to fit the deep litter floor soon.
We had 2 x 1litre plastic boxes of comb that we put through a fruit press to extract the honey and ended up with just over 2 jars which we are very pleased with. We are hoping our Daughter in law is going to take our wax to make furniture polish as she restores furniture.

Fruit press in action

The magimix came in handy to tilt the press onto
Liquid gold

Our first full jars of honey

We held a meeting of The Atlantic Coast Friends of the Bees on Saturday 31st August at the home of Richard and Essie Nichols near Red Post, between Holsworthy and Bude. Nine people were there including our new member, Tessa, from Poundstock. We discussed problems we had been having with emails not getting through and attachments not opening, but are unsure how to get over these problems. We don't really want to start posting information out as this would incur costs and so membership fees etc, which we would prefer to avoid. We went on to talk about how those of us with bees had fared this year and the general problems of bee decline in the area. We then went to see Essie and Richard's bees. It was a little late in the afternoon, by then, to disturb them and so we didn't spend long, but were impressed with the lovely straight comb we saw and the vigour of the colony. They have 2 good colonies.
Our next meeting is at 6pm on Sunday 6th October at The Old Smithy Inn, Welcombe with Phil Chandler. It's being held after the next beginners course at The Yarner Trust that weekend and Phil is staying on specially to meet with us.