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?