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Thread: Making a skep

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  1. #1
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    Default Making a skep

    I searched through the archives, but nearly all of the old links are broken or faield to provide information that I am looking for. For some reason, I think it might be a neat idea to keep bees in a skep. I have no intention of harvesting honey from them, or having them be useful in any way other than pollinating and maybe casting off swarms once in a while. It just seems like a neat "old school" way of having some bees and seeing how they do. Since bees are just a hobby for me, and I like making the gear, I plan to make my skep. I happen to have an abundant supply of pampas grass surrounding a portion of one of my ponds. With most of them being around 12' in height, it seems like they would do nicely for making the body. Is there any reason you can think of to avoid using this material? I also have plenty of reeds around the other pond and along our creek. These seem like they might be more difficult to work as they do not have a round cross section. I understand that this will likely be a time consuming venture with very little to show for it aside from an upside down basket lacking much aesthetic appeal, but I'm okay with that. The novelty of making something is all the motivation I require.

    I've read that the skeps were traditionally covered in cow dung to decrease the problems associated with woodepeckers. We do have a rather strong population of red bellied wood peckers, and pileated wood peckers are seen occasionally. I'm presuming that this dung covering is only used on the exterior. Is anything required on the interior?

    I understand that keeping bees in this manner is frowned upon, so my intention is not to place bees in the skep, but rather to simply put a skep out somewhere away from the hives and simply let nature run it's course.

    Any thoughts or advice for me on this venture?

    I have no intimate knowledge of the traditional tools required, but c'mon. I'm an engineer and were talking about a glorified basket. I'm sure I'll be able to come up with something that will work well enough. I'm curious about opinions on dimensions though. I doubt there was a "standard" size, but there are surely accepted values...perhps the 40 litre volume of a swarm trap?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Making a skep

    If you haven't already, you'll certainly want to spend some time watching the Heathland Beekeeping series. In one of the episodes the beekeeper is shown in some detail repairing one of the skeps (and also resurfacing it).

    There is probably also more recent material online, but some of it may be in German only. Do a search for "Korbimkerei".

    Here some more video links: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLC8B3EEFA0E4A7A4B

    The last entry (unfortunately in German) specifically is about weaving a skep.

    -K
    Kevin M. Pfeiffer -- Berlin, Germany

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Making a skep

    that repair video has pretty well put to rest most of my questions. the only outstanding question i have is on the use of the pompas grass, but from what i can tell, it should work just fine.

    I think i may use a more modern material than reeds for stitching the rows of straw/grass together. I'm thinking that kevlar spiderwire or a monofilament line would be much easier to use...then i debate with myself as this whole project certainly isn't going to be undertaken with ease as the primary consideration. I suppose, in for a penny; in for a pound.

    Thanks for the links!

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Making a skep

    Quote Originally Posted by KMP View Post
    If you haven't already, you'll certainly want to spend some time watching the [URL="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upbONroWPic"]Heathland Beekeeping series[/URL
    Fascinating! Many thanks for sharing!
    Серёжа, Sergey

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Making a skep

    Here's a great website for skepmaking directions:

    http://www.martinatnewton.com/page6.htm

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Making a skep

    No-sage,

    Now that's a cool site explaination of how to make one.
    Ninja, is not in the dictionary. Well played Ninja's, well played...

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Making a skep

    Any thoughts or advice for me on this venture?
    Don't know about Michigan, but it would be illegal in Indiana and probably several other states. Removable frames to enable inspection is the law here.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Making a skep

    I'm guessing there is probably a law on the books about it somewhere. I'm not going to be doing anything commercial, I'll be on my property, and I won't be PUTTING bees in it. I fail to see how there is any fundamental difference between this and allowing bees to live in the wall of a house, or the trunk of a tree. Michigan has no hive inspection program currently, though i believe there was one at one point.

    I guess my stance is that I'm not going to be keeping bees in it. I won't be manipulating, feeding, medicating, harvesting, or inspecting the skep, so no big deal. Then again, i am known to skirt the laws quite a bit. I often drive 56mph when the speed limit is only 55.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Making a skep

    go for it . THE LADIES LIKE A REBEL.
    thats the way i roll.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Making a skep

    Just do it!! Skeps are kool.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Making a skep

    It's certainly possible to remove a comb from a skep for inspection. Putting it back might be another story.
    Kevin M. Pfeiffer -- Berlin, Germany

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Making a skep

    KMP, you make a good point. I would have o problem with someone wanting to remove the comb to inspect. i could always just tie it into a lang hive and treat as a cut-out.

    Curious1, you're dang right! Chicks dig me. I thought it was obvious that my desire to have thousands of bees is little more than an attempt to reduce the number of ladies that come calling. Oh yes, what a life i live....[cough] BS[cough]

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Making a skep

    KP
    Like the Mooshiners say, "It ain't illegal till you get caught." I've thought of doing similar myself. Here's what stops me. As far fetched as or unlikely it may be, it is my device, even though a swarm moved in, it is on my property with my knowledge, therefore, I assume responsibility for it. IF and WHEN, that hive gets AFB or EFB, and another bee keeper close enough by, suffers loss from AFB/EFB, more than likely, I could be held responsible for the losses. It is the law in Maryland. The term in courts that I've heard more than once, was, "Known, or should have known." Just the way I see it. BTW, I'd make Moonshine too, but with my luck, I'd be the one ATF would want to make the example of.
    Love to see some pics,,,,,,,whoops,,,,,evidence,,,,
    Rick

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Making a skep

    Well dangit, Rick! Now you've got mt concience working on me and years of catholic schooling taught me the value of listening to that darn inner voice. I suppose i had better just chalk this one up to an idea that didn't pan out. Probably for the better.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Making a skep

    The last thing I read on the matter I had read that AZ was the only state that allowed bees to be kept in a hive without removable combs... I don't remember my source on that now though.

    Skeps are still used in much of Europe. You can buy them from Swienty for less than $50.00 US
    http://www.swienty.com/shop/vare.asp...&vareid=101851
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Making a skep

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick 1456 View Post
    KP
    Like the Mooshiners say, "It ain't illegal till you get caught." I've thought of doing similar myself. Here's what stops me. As far fetched as or unlikely it may be, it is my device, even though a swarm moved in, it is on my property with my knowledge, therefore, I assume responsibility for it. IF and WHEN, that hive gets AFB or EFB, and another bee keeper close enough by, suffers loss from AFB/EFB, more than likely, I could be held responsible for the losses. It is the law in Maryland. The term in courts that I've heard more than once, was, "Known, or should have known." Just the way I see it. BTW, I'd make Moonshine too, but with my luck, I'd be the one ATF would want to make the example of.
    Love to see some pics,,,,,,,whoops,,,,,evidence,,,,
    Rick
    You can legally make as much moonshine as you want as long as you don't sell it.
    Mark Berninghausen To combat Ebola, please consider supporting http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org


  17. #17
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    Default Re: Making a skep

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    You can legally make as much moonshine as you want as long as you don't sell it.
    As long as you don't drink it... It has to be for fuel purposes and they prefer it be toxic to humans even in that case. From ATF Q and A.

    Spirits

    You cannot produce spirits for beverage purposes without paying taxes and without prior approval of paperwork to operate a distilled spirits plant. [See 26 U.S.C. 5601 & 5602 for some of the criminal penalties.] There are numerous requirements that must be met that make it impractical to produce spirits for personal or beverage use. Some of these requirements are paying excise tax, filing an extensive application, filing a bond, providing adequate equipment to measure spirits, providing suitable tanks and pipelines, providing a separate building (other than a dwelling) and maintaining detailed records, and filing reports. All of these requirements are listed in 27 CFR Part 19.
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Making a skep

    Quote Originally Posted by KMP View Post
    It's certainly possible to remove a comb from a skep for inspection. Putting it back might be another story.
    I don't know why but I laughed for a solid minute when I read this!

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Making a skep

    Quote Originally Posted by indypartridge View Post
    Don't know about Michigan, but it would be illegal in Indiana and probably several other states. Removable frames to enable inspection is the law here.
    Yes, in Virginia you can go more than a decade or five without someone from the state wanting to inspect your hives.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Making a skep

    If you get AFB (and you won't know it, since you cannot inspect) and spread it to other beeks in the area, you are going to get an earful.

    Skeps will be burned at once by the bee inspector in Indiana if found, ditto for gums, box hives, and any other bee container without removable frames. This is to prevent AFB from decimating the beekeeping industry as it did in the 1920s and 30s, before antibiotics. Still a good law as far as I'm concerned. Plenty of wild hives to
    "play" with, if you have them as "domestic" bees they should be properly maintained in a proper hive.

    Peter

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