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, 10 June 2016

This year's swarms and Friends of the bees meeting

Our first swarm of the year amazingly coincided with the Atlantic Coast Friends of the Bees meeting at our apiary on Sunday 22nd May. The meeting started at 10.30 and the Posties began to swarm half an hour later. What incredible timing!

The swarm
Angie touching the swarm

Mick carrying the swarm over to the nucleus box

Watching the swarm enter the nucleus box

For the full effect, watch the 2 videos, Part 1 and Part 2.

Here is the link to the video Part 1which was taken and edited by Angie:


Here is the link to Part 2 which was filmed on our camera by Angie and with extra footage by Vendela. Sue edited it.


The Paddies then swarmed 2 days later. We caught this swarm too which settled in one of our pine trees. This one was a bit trickier as they were in the fork of 3 thick branches. We hived them in our 3' hive as we are going to keep these and have named them The Paddypines.

Deciding how we are going to catch these

Casper 'helping'

Casper 'helping' with the wheelbarrow

The Dolphins left it until 3 days later to swarm. Again, we caught the swarm which was in another pine tree. This time it was on a thin branch, so fairly easy.
The Posties and the Dolphins swarms are now at their new homes and things have settled down at the apiary. We had one more swarm this week, which we think was a cast from The Paddies. We caught it with some difficulty and hived it on the second attempt. However, they absconded the next day. We think the queen, which was probably a virgin, might have flown off during the capture.
We have also had several swarm calls, but they have either turned out to be bumble bees, were in too difficult places for us to tackle, were too far away, or someone else got there first.
We still have several people on our list of people wanting swarms so hopefully we will get some more calls.
Meanwhile we are up to 4 good colonies here at Nectan's Meadow Apiary.