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, 5 October 2012

Autumn has arrived

I have just realised we haven't posted for over 2 months. Quite a lot has happened in that time. The weather eventually improved in late July and we were able to stop feeding. The bees became much happier and were out flying most days.
We heard that a lot of people had had trouble with queens not managing to mate successfully because of the weather and got increasingly worried about both our colonies and the nucleus, all of which had, or should have had, new queens. We eventually checked and found brood in both the hives, but not in the nucleus which we had moved into the nucleus box ready to go on holiday for a couple of weeks, prior to going to The Yarner Trust up the road. It didn't have any brood when we moved it, but we thought that might just have been because the queen hadn't started laying yet. The bees seemed fairly happy and were bringing in pollen.
There was another Beekeeping Course here on the weekend of 7th - 9th September and we decided to reunite the nucleus with the colony it came from, The Lizards and move the whole lot into the new hive with the periscope entrance. Luckily it was a fairly warm weekend and we did this successfully on the Saturday afternoon. At the same time we assessed stores in both our hives. We decided The Dolphins should be fine for the winter, but The Lizards might not be. We decided to offer them some 2:1 thick syrup in the contact feeder. They took several days to take this and so we haven't given them any more. There are some videos taken on the course on The Yarner Trust YouTube page here: http://www.youtube.com/user/YarnerTrust and here are some pictures.

Phil looking through the Lizard Hive

Looking into the hive

Lovely new comb with honey at the top

We'll check both colonies in late January/early February and assess how they are doing for stores then. Hopefully they will both be OK, but it depends on the weather really. Last winter was so mild here that they were out flying a lot and so used up more energy and so more supplies.
It's been a very odd year for many beekeepers, who knows what the next 12 months will hold. This is our third year and still no honey to spare, oh well, maybe one day.
We've been hearing a lot about The Perone hive recently and will be interested in how the people trying them out in this country do. Here is a link to a video of them doing a talk at the Natural Beekeeping conference held in August:
On Sunday 23rd September we held the second meeting of Atlantic Coast Friends of the Bees here. There were 12 of us on a wet and windy afternoon. We spent most of the time drinking tea in the kitchen and talking Beekeeping. Unfortunately none of the people who came, apart from us, had any bees yet. We encouraged those who hadn't yet been on Phil's course to consider doing it next Spring. We talked about Perone Hives and the problems beekeepers had experienced this year, amongst other things and then ventured out to look at the hives. We also had a look at the new hive Jim has been making in the garage, with a periscope entrance that has a perspex front to it.