Having read many alarming articles about the decline of bees in this country and abroad, we decided to start keeping bees here. At the same time an article appeared in the weekend Telegraph about the work being done by Phil Chandler and the Natural Beekeeping movement, which advocated a bee-centred rather than honey-centred approach. Following a weekend course in Devon taken by Phil Chandler we decided to use Horizontal Top Bar Hives rather than the more conventional systems.
However, whilst waiting to hear of a swarm for our first Top Bar Hive, we received word of two National Hives complete with bees which were available, and decided to try those as well. These are usually managed by conventional beekeepers using pre-prepared wax foundation in the frames in order to discourage the production of drone cells and encourage more worker cells to be drawn out.
Once we have more experience in using the Nationals our aim is to gradually change the way we use them to employ more natural beekeeping methods, such as using only starter strips of foundation in the frames and therefore encouraging the bees to fill the rest of the frame with their own comb, which will consist of both worker and drone cells in the brood box – as many as they see fit to make. Other differences we already employ are the use of fine water spray instead of smoke to subdue the bees when inspecting the hive (as we do in the Top Bar Hive), and using a dummy end-frame (without comb) so that bees are less disturbed when taking out the first frame in an inspection. Hopefully, as we go on, more tips will be gained from fellow users of the natural beekeeping forum on the Biobees website.