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

Monday, 1 June 2015

Beekeeping season 2015

Well 2 of our hives came through the winter very well but the third didn't make it. The one that died was the swarm we caught last year. They had swarmed again a month later and as we found 2 queens in the swarm we think they possibly left the original colony queenless, or that the new queen failed to mate successfully. In any case, we are pretty sure they had no queen and had made desperate efforts to create a new one. There were lots of queen cups, no brood and a very small, dead, cluster. They had plenty of stores, so hadn't starved. Hopefully we will get a swarm back from the person we gave their swarm to.
We had a very good meeting of The Atlantic Coast Friends of the Bees on 10th May with 11 of us in attendance, followed by a shared lunch. We looked at the bees and the new experiments we are trying out with the hives including the periscope entrances, eco floors and shellac treatment on the inside of the hives. Mick has just made a new hive which we will be transferring the Nectans into this season. The periscope entrance on this hive is shallower than the ones we have been using with a shorter distance for the bees to crawl up. He has changed the angle of the sides to 120° as recommended by Les Crowder. We are also going to experiment with different guides on the top bars, starting with lolly sticks inserted in a groove with wax. We are now using 38mm as standard.

Lovely comb of capped brood in early April

Mick making the new hive

Double viewing window at the back

New style periscope entrance

We will be able to inspect the periscope space if necessary

The bees bearding in late April

The local Friends of the Bees looking at Mick's new hive

The Nectans swarmed this year on 23rd May and settled on a post a few yards from the hive. We managed to get them into their new home without much difficulty.
Unfortunately this years beekeeping course with Phil Chandler has had to be cancelled due to lack of numbers, but he may be coming to see us soon anyway.

They settled on a post 

Mick with a stick of bees

Shaking them onto the sheet

Marching up into the hive

Nearly all there