Nowadays, my life seems to be full of bees.
I took up beekeeping in 2000, while the craft was in decline and the local beekeepers’ association was struggling for members. I took an early dislike to ‘modern’ beekeeping methods, which seemed to be mostly about maximizing honey production and ‘manipulating’ the bees. I wanted something simpler and closer to the bees’ own way of doing things, and discovered the top bar hive.
In 2007 I wrote The Barefoot Beekeeper, which, to my surprise, seems to have become a bit of a ‘cult’ book among what has been recently dubbed the ‘natural beekeeping movement’.
The title for the book came to me in a flash one morning in bed, and I knew immediately that it was perfect. The construction method for my version of the top bar hive had arrived in exactly the same way, and I have lived long enough and made enough mistakes to know when an idea is absolutely right without hesitation.
‘Natural beekeeping’ is, of course, an oxymoron, but it does encapsulate an aspiration to work more closely with the bees, and to get rid of all the clutter that has accumulated around beekeeping since Langstroth peddled his new-fangled ‘movable frame’ hive around the USA in the middle of the 19th century. The term was adopted at a meeting I attended, along with a number of other interested parties, which was hosted by Bees for Development in Monmouth, Wales, in July 2009. Some of us went on to launch a not-for-profit (or charity, as we Brits call it) named Friends of the Bees.
About the time I published The Barefoot Beekeeper, I set up a site with a forum devoted to ‘natural beekeeping‘. This has become the ‘go to’ site for anyone wanting to know more about this style of beekeeping, largely because of the calibre of people who have been willing freely to give of their time and energy to making it a place worth visiting. I have to give a special mention to Norman Weston, who was with me from the beginning and was co-admin through the growth period, when many difficult decisions had to be made.