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, 22 August 2010

Sunday 22nd August

Sunday 22nd August
3.30 pm Temp 22C. Jim away, so I had to check the Lizards alone. Had to do it today as weather is meant to be turning bad again tomorrow. Flying very busily and seemed to be behaving normally AND were defensive! Went through the whole hive. Couldn't find queen - AGAIN, but there was drone brood and I think a small amount of worker brood, including uncapped cells. Not a lot, but more than last time. There was also more honey, or maybe it was stored sugar syrup. So I think we can say we probably have a queen who had stopped laying until we stimulated her with feeding. My guess is that she was too hungry to lay PHEW!!! I sugared them as best I could, avoiding the brood.

Monday 16th August
Started feeding 200g sugar : 100mls water daily in contact feeder. They took it all. Carried on for 6 days as weather was so bad we couldn't open up the hive to check.

Sunday 15th August
2.30 pm Temp 20C. Weighed both hives Lizards (L) 19kgs (R) 21kgs. Buckfasts (L) 31kgs (R) 27kgs. Both had lost some weight over past 5 wks.
Buckfasts seemed quite good, although had used up some of their stores, we are glad we didn't take any significant amounts of honey. Applied icing sugar, avoiding brood.
We were worried about the Lizards, as they had very little stores or brood. Couldn't find queen again! Seemed to be behaving fairly normally though, apart from being less defensive than usual (which is not a good sign). Applied icing sugar. Decided to phone old experienced beekeeping friend for advice. He said to check if they were bringing in pollen, then feed them 1:2 sugar syrup for a 3 - 4 days to try to stimulate the queen to lay. Then check for cells. If still worried to check if more than one egg in each cell. This would indicate laying workers and probably no queen. He said our only option, if that were the case, would be to integrate the 2 hives together. Oh dear!!! Checked and found they were not bringing in pollen.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Sat 31st July '10

Jim had heard from Phil that he had some concerns about the Lizards. He thought there was not a lot of brood and could not find the queen last weekend.
5.30 pm We looked in both ends of the hive a couple of bars in, but as the temperature was dropping thought it best not to go any further, at this stage. Bees seem happy, flying back and forth normally. Saw brood one end and a lot of bees. No visible distress or problem. Will investigate further and treat with icing sugar on a warmer day.