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, 14 March 2016

New Brood

Checked all 3 hives again yesterday and decided to change to feeding sugar syrup, if needed, rather than fondant. They were all out foraging in the warm sunny weather.
The Paddies had almost finished the fondant, so we moved the feeder board back and put in the syrup feeder with 2 jars of 1:1 syrup. In the process we saw that they had some capped worker brood which is great. There was less evidence of wax moth damage, so hopefully they have dealt with it themselves. There had however been a mouse in the roof space as the insulation mat (old bath mat) had been chewed.
The Posties had completely finished their fondant, so we removed the feeder board and gave them the same amount of syrup. There was some evidence of the presence of wax moths so we need to keep an eye on that.
The Dolphins are the biggest colony but hadn't finished the fondant. This is probably because they had the most of their own stores left. There was no evidence of wax moths.
Quite pleased overall that they have all got through the winter safely.

Monday, 7 March 2016

A long mild damp winter

At last there is a little bit of sunshine after a long, rather mild and very wet winter. We suspect the Queens only stopped laying for a very short time, if at all. We started feeding all 3 hives just after New Year with Candipolline, as we were worried they might have run out of pollen, as well as honey. We are now giving them a mixture of Candipolline and plain fondant. Checked them today and they have almost finished it again so we will check again in a few days and probably give them one last lot. They have been out flying more recently and bringing in snowdrop pollen and nectar.
There was evidence of wax moth damage in the Paddies hive which we will need to keep an eye on. We changed their insulating bath mat, as it had pupae on.

Our candy board type invention for feeding candipolline/fondant

It seems to work very well