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

Sunday, 12 July 2015

We now have 4 colonies!

Well, we said we wouldn't go above 3 colonies, but we now have 4!
The swarm we caught on 23rd May, The Posties are doing great.
The Nectans, who swarmed and then sent a cast off on 8th June, left themselves queenless so we gave them a comb of brood from The Posties (their own swarm) and they made several good queen cells. These should have hatched by now, so we are hoping there is a good queen in there now.
The ones we have in a nucleus box are the cast from The Nectans and unfortunately the queen flew off during hiving. We have learnt a lesson there that young virgin queens are much more likely to take flight than older queens. We were hoping they had another queen as there are often more than one in a cast. However, we realised they were queenless and requeened them with a black queen from Northern Island on Tuesday 7th July. We had originally planned to put it in The Nectans' hive if they hadn't made any decent queen cells, but we decided they were ok and gave it to the nucleus instead. If successful we are going to call them The Paddies!
The Dolphins have had at least one swarm that we lost and possibly 2, but seem to be ok. We are hoping they haven't left themselves queenless, like The Nectans did. We'll check soon and give them a comb of brood too, if they have none of their own.
On Thursday 9th July I was called out to catch a swarm near Hartland. It was in a low bush and was fairly easy to shake straight into a nucleus box. I left them there until the next evening to be sure we had them all and then we collected it and met up with a member of our bee group, in a layby, to give it to her. We really do not want 5 colonies, tempting as it is.

The swarm near Hartland hanging from a small leylandii bush
Caught them easily straight into the nucleus box
Just a few stragglers to go in