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Thread: Making a skep

  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
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
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    Berlin, Germany
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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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    Niskayuna, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Making a skep

    Here's a great website for skepmaking directions:

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

  4. #4
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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!

  5. #5
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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.

  6. #6
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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.

  7. #7
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    proctorsville, vermont
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    Default Re: Making a skep

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

  8. #8
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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

  9. #9
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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...

  10. #10
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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]

  11. #11
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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

  12. #12
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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.

  13. #13
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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.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Making a skep

    It your land, they're your bees. Be a rebel. Heck, beekeeping itself is a rebellion of sorts.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Making a skep

    For the record, they weren;t going to MY bees any more than the squirrels and deer and turkeys are mine. they would have been "wild" bees. I've pushed this idea off of the "active" list.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Making a skep

    Honestly no one is going to bother your bee skeps. I have kept bees in gum logs before and once had the state inspector come out and he thought the gum was pretty cool... There is likely no fine for doing so and the most the inspector would say is you have to put them into hives or destroy them.

    I understand the reasoning behind the laws, but now days there really is no threat... And people keep bees in warre hives which is already pushing the envelope on removable combs.
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Making a skep

    Kp,
    Sorry , I didn't to appeal to your inner religious self, I don't know your laws or situation. They are wild bees IMO until someone potentially questions it and then the debate is on. What's the possibility of that ??? Your decision, just thought I'd share my "paranoia".
    I know exactly how you feel though. I had this idea to "seed" some swarms on state lands last year. Shared it on the forum. Some thought it fine, others were "agin" it. I decided to shelf the idea. The arguments agin it made more sense than the novelty idea of it.
    SSHHH,,,,,I still may do it,,,,LOL
    You have the right idea though,,,,have fun with the bees.
    Rick

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Making a skep

    Somewhere I have a gardening magazine I bought a while ago that had an article in it about old skeps a woman had collected. They were really cool, one was rectangular and woven to wood, one even had a removable super.

  19. #19
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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!

  20. #20
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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.

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