Welcome to Sue & Jim's Natural Beekeeping blog.
We are neighbours in the beautiful coastal village of Welcombe on the North Devon/Cornwall border. We both decided to start beekeeping about a year ago and began to attend apiary meetings of the Holsworthy Beekeepers Association. We 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 we were all uncomfortable with some aspects of conventional beekeeping. We 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 Caribean 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.
We 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 we all signed up and Yarner asked us if we 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 we learned more, we 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 us bees to go in a Top Bar Hive. We 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, we were off!
The weekend course with Phil went ahead and was great. Sue & Jim were now very 'green' beekeepers. We have had quite a lot of problems over the past 2 months, mostly to do with the fact the bees are in conversion from 1/2 Dadant frames to Top Bars. We are now awaiting our second nucleus, which are on Top Bars already. These are coming from Heather Bell bees on the Lizard. We had similar problems again in sourcing bees, especially as many beekeepers had losses over the winter.
We began keeping a small book, with notes to each other, in the hive. It served as our record of everything that we did and how the bees were doing. Unfortunately we had a leak in the roof this week and our book got wet. Hence the birth of this blog. We will be adding all the notes from the book here over the next day or so and then be using this as our record of the progress of the apiary.
Phil Chandler's website: www.biobees.com
The Yarner Trust: www.yarnertrust.org
Heather Bell bees: www.cornwallhoney.com