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

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Two swarms!

So far we have had 2 swarms this week. On Sunday I kept checking the Paddyelms around every 30 mins as I thought they might send off a primary swarm. They didn't but then I became aware of a medium sized swarm in a beech tree nearby. It was quite high up and in amongst the branches so not the easiest to catch. We are not sure if it is a primary swarm, or a cast, but managed to collect it and hive it fairly easily in the end. We didn't see the queen, but they entered the hive very quickly so we think we got her. It could have come from the Apple Trees, if it was a cast, or possibly from Kings Cross Cottage where they have bees in an unused chimney. We had had a call from a neighbour the same day who had called round there and thought there was a swarm. When Mick got there it had gone, so it was possibly the one in our beech tree. The bees do look rather like our bees, The Kings, who also came from there last year. We have named them The Beeches.

Mick climbing up to get them

Up the ladder

Got them

Onto the sheet

In they go
On Monday we had a cast from the Appletrees. They gathered low down amongst some brambles and ferns. We cut away as much of the vegetation as we could, put a nucleus box in front of them and then put a sheet from the box to as near to them as we could get it. We then shook as many bees as we could over and on to the sheet. We have now given this cast away to another Top Bar Beekeeper in the village.

The cast from The Appletrees

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

The Kings

We inspected The Kings on Sunday. They have quite a lot of worker brood and it's not as patchy as it was the last time we looked. However, it's a little odd and strangely laid out with patches of drone brood on one side of some combs. We considered re queening them, but I think we will only do that if we catch a spare queen in a swarm. Otherwise we hope they will do a supercedure if they are unhappy with the queen. They had re built the comb that had broken last time and also built new combs on the 2 bars we put in. We put 3 more bars in and a few spacers where they have very thick honeycombs. No queen cells or queen cups seen and we think they are unlikely to swarm this year.

Friday, 12 May 2017

First swarm of the season

The Apple Trees swarmed on Monday 8th May. Lovely big swarm which landed in a pine tree so we've called them The Pineapples!
We hived them into a nucleus box as we've found that they tend to build straighter comb when started in a nuc rather than a hive.

They landed in a pine tree

A good sized swarm

Starting to get the idea

In they go

Around half in now